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 hours ago

Can cleaning the ocean be marketed?

(4Ocean/Facebook)

Trillions of pieces of plastic are creating huge garbage patches in the world’s oceans. One company’s efforts to do something about this problem can lead us to rethink some perceived economic wisdom.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimates that two million tons of plastic enters the world’s oceans each year. Most of this waste results from irresponsible disposal. Ocean currents have created five major garbage patches. The most notable is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch between California and Hawaii, double the size of Texas and containing 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic. The patches are nuisances, can harm ocean life, and provide one rationale for banning plastic straws, silverware, and bags, although the wisdom of plastic bans is a topic for another day.

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Floridians Andrew Cooper and Alex Schulze witnessed the ocean trash problem while surfing in Bali and started 4Ocean in response. As the company’s website describes it, “Devastated by the amount of plastic in the ocean, they set out to find out why no one was doing anything about it.”
The problem was that no one could get paid to pick up the trash, and Mr. Cooper and Mr. Schulze hit upon an idea. For $20, customers can buy a 4Ocean bracelet made from recycled plastic and remove one pound of trash. To date, 4Ocean has removed more than 4.4 million pounds of plastic.
Can we trust that 4Ocean removes trash from the ocean? To assure customers, 4Ocean relies on Green Circle Certification. Green Circle provides third party certification of a variety of environmental claims, including recycled content in products, energy savings, and carbon footprint reduction. Companies like 4Ocean pay Green Circle to assess their operations. For certified claims, Green Circle lets the customer use their symbol and enters the product in their online database.

Certification seemingly faces a conflict of interest: Won’t Green Circle always certify the claims of paying customers? While this is a danger, ultimately a third party certifier really sells only its veracity. 4Ocean will only pay if Green Circle’s seal matters to potential customers. Green Circle, which has been in business since 2009, makes money over time only by being honest.

Third party certification has a long history. The case most studied by economists is Underwriters’ Laboratories, which tests consumer products for safety. The UL stamp assures insurers that lamps, toasters, and other products are not fire hazards.

How does this relate to government and environmental protection? Americans value protecting the environment, but conventional wisdom holds that business cannot make money protecting the environment. Any commercial venture must charge for its product or service, and normally does so by allowing only paying customers to get the product or service.

Yet allowing only paying customers to benefit from environmental protection is almost impossible: everyone benefits if the Great Pacific Garbage Pile is cleaned up. If businesses cannot market environmental protection, we will have to turn to government and taxes.

We have an incentive to let someone else clean up the ocean, but also like to contribute to good causes. 4Ocean taps into this sentiment, and their bracelet lets customers to show off their good deed. Environmental groups raise millions of dollars in a similar fashion. Charities do this too; Save the Children allows donors to learn the story of a child they “rescue.”

Proponents of government action will point with justification that the funds raised through markets to protect the environment are small relative to the scale of the problems. The 2,200 tons of plastic 4Ocean is just a drop in the bucket. Yet government efforts can be poorly funded, very costly, and of poor quality. The Government Accountability Office has repeatedly documented the flaws of the Energy Star labeling program.

Ultimately we must pay for environmental protection. Businesses and charities must deliver to continue being supported by their customers or patrons. Each success in marketing environmental protection enables a valuable alternative and should be celebrated.

Daniel Sutter is the Charles G. Koch Professor of Economics with the Manuel H. Johnson Center for Political Economy at Troy University and host of Econversations on TrojanVision. The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Troy University.

9 hours ago

Roby: A pro-life update from the federal level

(M. Roby for Congress/Facebook)

Throughout my time in Congress, I have been staunchly and unapologetically pro-life. I will continue to use this platform to fight for life at every stage because unborn babies cannot fight for themselves. Since much of the news in our state and throughout the country lately has focused on recent pro-life efforts, I would like to take this opportunity to share an update about my work on the federal level to defend the unborn.

In February of this year, the Trump Administration’s Department of Health and Human Services issued a rule that would restrict Title X family planning grants from being steered to entities that are not physically and financially separate from abortion providers. A series of court injunctions have frozen these rule changes, and as a result, hundreds of abortion facilities, like Planned Parenthood, are still receiving federal tax dollars through Title X grants.

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While the rule is going through the judicial process, the Democrat majority on the House Appropriations Committee has elected to tie the hands of the Department of Health and Human Services through legislation stating that the Department may only act in accordance with regulations established prior to January 18, 2017, just two days before Donald Trump became President. This is unacceptable – we simply cannot handcuff the current administration to regulations of the past.

During the recent full Appropriations Committee markup of the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Subcommittee Fiscal Year 2020 funding bill, I offered an amendment that would allow the courts, rather than the Democrat majority in the House, to decide the fate of the Trump administration’s proposed rule restricting Title X family planning grants from being awarded to facilities that provide abortions. Despite the inclusion of the Hyde Amendment, abortion providers have been able to get their hands on American tax dollars through these Title X funds. I am unapologetically pro-life, so I don’t want this to happen, and the majority of the people I represent don’t want this to happen.

The Trump administration’s proposed rule would draw a clear, bright line between family planning services and abortion providers. Unfortunately, my amendment did not pass, but to ensure that the rule has a fighting chance of becoming law, we must allow it to go through our judicial process – not block it legislatively as part of a political game.

In addition to the Department of Health and Human Services, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is also taking measures to stand up for the unborn. Two foreign companies, Aid Access and Rablon, have been known to distribute chemical abortion drugs to customers in the United States by mail-order. This practice is already illegal, and the FDA has taken action against it, but it is still happening.

This abortion drug, called Mifeprex, is approved by the FDA, but it is only legally available to patients in the United States through health care providers. It is not available in retail pharmacies, and it is certainly not legally available on the Internet. However, these abortion-by-mail providers, primarily based in Europe, have widened their consumer base to include the U.S. They provide remote consultations, send prescriptions to be filled in India, then send the abortion drug to U.S. customers by mail.

By violating the FDA’s safety protocols, these companies are endangering the health of American women and their children. The FDA has been combating these practices, but I recently led a letter, signed by 117 of my colleagues, that was sent to Dr. Norman Sharpless, acting FDA commissioner, urging him to further crackdown. I was proud to join my fellow pro-life colleagues in sending the clear message that we will not tolerate these dangerous, illegal practices, and I applaud the steps the FDA has already taken to protect women and unborn children.

I share these updates to make the point that while we still face challenges, our pro-life momentum is strong, and I will keep pushing forward on the federal level. I want the people I represent in Alabama’s Second District to know that defending the unborn remains a top priority of mine, and I will continue to speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves.

Martha Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District. She lives in Montgomery, Alabama, with her husband Riley and their two children.

1 day ago

Flowers: Infrastructure package passage will be hallmark of success for Governor Kay Ivey and the legislature

(Governor's Office/Hal Yeager)

The five-day special legislative session that addressed the increase in the gas tax to fund an Infrastructure Rebuilding Program for the state was a remarkable success. I still marvel at the adroitness, efficiency and expediency in which the governor accomplished this monumental initiative. She called for a special session on the night of her State of the State address and within one week it was signed, sealed and delivered.

I have seen some successful special sessions in my lifetime of watching Alabama politics. However, I have never seen anything like this. George Wallace used special sessions continuously and regularly during his 20-year reign as king of Alabama politics. He got things accomplished this way. It is the way to go to crystallize the importance of an issue.

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Kay Ivey’s success made Wallace’s hardball ploys look minor league. She got her mission accomplished in the minimum five days. It was an amazing success story that will be told in political circles for years.

She did her homework. She dug in and made it clear that infrastructure improvement was a must for Alabama. She had a plan, she worked it and she won and the people of Alabama won.

She was not doing it for self-serving reasons nor was she doing it to secure her place in history. However, I am here to tell you as an Alabama political historian, she earned a place in my book. She has earned her spurs and earned the name “Governor.” She showed her leadership and the title Gov. Kay Ivey.

Gov. Ivey was astute to address the issue in a special session within the regular session for several reasons. In a special session, legislators have to address only the issue the governor calls them in for. By calling for the concentrated special session within the regular session, it did not cost taxpayers anymore. It also got them around the 3/5 vote needed to bring a bill up before the budgets which is required in the regular session.

Her ability to reach across the aisle and garner Democratic support for passage of the program was noteworthy. She brought in all of the Democratic legislative leaders. She sat down with them and diligently worked to explain how important this agenda was to not only their constituents, but to the entire state.

Her reaching out to them was not only important for passage of this package, but it built the foundation for a successful and harmonious working relationship with all the members of the Legislature which has been missing for over a decade.

The relationships Kay developed with state senators as presiding officer of the Senate for six years paid off with not only the Republican leadership but also with Democratic leaders like Bobby Singleton.

She forged new friendships with both Republican and Democratic legislators in the House. She worked hard and developed a close working relationship with House Democratic leader, Anthony Daniels (D-Huntsville), who is a bright young star. This friendship will be good going forward for Ivey and the state.

Rep. Bill Poole (R-Tuscaloosa) was the leader in the House that worked closely with Gov. Kay Ivey to align the stars for passage. Poole drafted the bill, helped devise the strategy and fought for passage. He is probably the only House sponsor who could pull it off. Senator Clyde Chambliss (R-Prattville) did a brilliant job in the Senate. Both Poole and Chambliss are young with bright paths ahead in Alabama politics.

Expanding access to broadband internet in rural Alabama has been one of the cornerstone issues for Gov. Ivey and the legislature the last few years. This access to broadband today is as important as getting electricity was 60-75 years ago.

This initiative has moved to the forefront for passage as the session evolves. The magic formula for success is engrossed in House Bill 400. This legislation would logically and effectively allow electric utilities to use their existing infrastructure to run broadband to areas that do not have service today.

Opposition has arisen from big cable companies for obvious self-serving reasons. To allow these large out-of-state companies to thwart the passage of this important piece of legislation would be bad for the state. The need to run new fiber optic lines at great expense would make the initiative almost cost prohibitive.

Regardless, the cable companies and AT&T are working to kill this logical plan to extend broadband internet service to all Alabamians. They are also using some unsavory tactics in their attempt to kill Gov. Ivey’s initiative. Hopefully, their transparent efforts to derail this important legislation will be ignored by legislators who want what is best for Alabama.

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.

Rogers’ report from Washington: Standing up for Israel

(M. Rogers/Facebook, (Z. Evenor/Wikimedia Commons)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Recently in the halls of Congress, it’s become a much too common practice for some Democrats to spew hatred and anti-Semitism.

From Representative Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez to Representative Rashida Tlaib to Representative Illhan Omar, their words cut deeply. Their spreading of anti-Semitism is harmful to all Americans.

On the world stage, we have also seen the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement gaining traction and trying to hurt Israel. The BDS movement is cover for some of the world’s worst anti-Semites. The movement is ultimately devoted to the destruction of the state of Israel.
I am a strong supporter of Israel. Not only is Israel fundamental to my Christian faith, it is one of our greatest allies.

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This week, to show my support, I, along with my Republican colleagues, signed a Discharge Petition to bring legislation to the House floor for a vote.

If the Discharge Petition gets 218 signatures, H.R. 336, the Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act of 2019, can be brought to the House Floor for a vote. The legislation reaffirms the United States’ commitment to Israel and against the BDS movement.

Months ago, the Senate passed similar anti-BDS legislation with some Democrat support. Meanwhile, in the House of Representatives, the legislation has been collecting dust on Nancy Pelosi’s desk because of some of the members of her party who have been outspoken critics of Israel.
There is no place in Congress or America for this type of hatred. It is vile and repugnant. It must be condemned.

I have been very disappointed in the Democrat leadership for not condemning this type of behavior and for not standing up for Israel. I hope we can bring this vote to the floor and show the world that we are standing up for and standing with Israel.

U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers is a Republican from Saks. 

2 days ago

Auburn is advancing the state of Alabama on and off the court

(Auburn University/Flickr)

The Auburn Tigers’ great basketball season — culminating with a trip to the Final Four — drew much national attention to Auburn and the state of Alabama, as the team touched the hearts of countless fans, old and new, and became the state’s first school to reach that milestone.

It’s an excitement Auburn and our state should reflect off the court as well, as we partner to move the state forward and build a solid foundation for our great future. But, like on the court, we must have the determination to win by overcoming challenges, such as competition from faster-growing states and poor rankings. The state has historically not performed well in a number of national surveys, such as U.S. News’ rankings of the best states in which to live. However, we are currently experiencing economic growth and we continue to progress as a state.

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Auburn, as a land-grant university, is poised to lead. Land-grant institutions give citizens access to a practical education that not only benefits the students, but strengthens communities and boosts economic opportunities. As an Auburn alumnus, I was already familiar with many university endeavors, but I learned even more when I served as chair of the Auburn University Foundation. Let’s look at facts you may not know.

Auburn educates more students from Alabama each year than any other institution, creates an annual economic impact of $5.4 billion, provides an eight to one return on every dollar invested in Auburn and makes immeasurable research advancements for our state and nation. Auburn’s impact affects our citizens from Huntsville to the Gulf Coast.

For example, many Alabamians earn their living through poultry. Auburn research is helping meet new consumer demands, leading the fight against diseases and providing food for a growing global population. Poultry accounts for 65.6% of annual farming revenue in Alabama and it employs more than 86,000 workers. It is just one of the many industries intertwined with Auburn.

University research is the key to developing industry partnerships, nurturing entrepreneurs and attracting new companies. The Auburn Research Park is a leading destination for business and industry looking to locate or expand in Alabama, and it is home to the Tiger Cage Accelerator and Incubator that helps student entrepreneurs fine-tune their business ideas and attract investors.

Another area in which Auburn leads the way is additive manufacturing. One alliance in this growing field is the university’s work with NASA to develop additive manufacturing techniques for improving the performance of liquid rocket engines. This is the latest expansion of a longstanding partnership involving Marshall Space Flight Center, Auburn’s Huntsville Research Center and Auburn’s main campus.

Auburn also provides advanced technology and training with Delta Air Lines to develop the next generation of pilots in the university’s new Delta Air Lines Aviation Education Building and through Delta’s Propel Pilot Career Path Program.

Research and technology have more than economic benefits, though. The College of Veterinary Medicine, which most likely taught your veterinarian, constantly makes breakthroughs to benefit pets and people. One area that comes to mind is the Auburn-developed Vapor Wake training for detector dogs, which keep our nation safe.

Still focusing on safety, Auburn has devoted tremendous resources to become a national leader in cybersecurity, led by its Charles D. McCrary Institute for Cyber and Critical Infrastructure Security. Students graduate prepared to protect the country, like recent cyber-engineering graduate Matthew Rogers who was named a Rhodes scholar.

In Birmingham, students at Auburn’s Urban Studio design neighborhood masterplans and create designs for public-use buildings in areas with potential for significant urban impact. In west Alabama, the 20K Initiative through the Rural Studio in Hale County is another great example. The initiative is a collaboration with Fannie Mae to develop quality, sustainable houses that give financially vulnerable citizens the ability to own a home.

Along the coast, the Auburn University Educational Complex at Gulf Shores offers veterinary care, aviation instruction and Alabama Cooperative Extension System programs. Throughout the state, Alabama Extension searches for ways to serve our citizens. For example, more people are interested in becoming farmers, so Alabama Extension offers a free, online Farming Basics course to help them get started.

In east Alabama, a new partnership between Auburn and Southern Union State Community College makes Auburn accessible and affordable to two-year college students who transfer and complete a bachelor’s degree. Auburn plans to expand this program to other community colleges, as nearly 900 students from two-year institutions transfer to Auburn annually.

It’s an exciting time for Auburn as a key institution that inspires students, strengthens communities and boosts economic opportunities — all advancing the state of Alabama.

Jeff Stone is executive vice president of Brasfield & Gorrie in Birmingham, an Auburn alumnus and past chair of the Auburn University Foundation.

5 days ago

Calling on Alabama legislators to pass life-saving distracted driving bill

(M. Lunsford/Facebook)

They say time heals all wounds, but for me, it’s not so easy.

You see, just over a year ago my only child was killed just 26 days before her 18th birthday, and three months to the day before she would have graduated from Thompson High School. My sweet daughter Cici was distracted by her cell phone while driving. In the course of only a few short seconds, she went from wishing a friend happy birthday to slamming her brakes as she slid underneath an 18-wheeler on I-65.

Yes, she made a mistake, like many of us do every day. However, if there was law in place that forced her to put her phone down, Cici might still be here today. As we approach the last few weeks of Alabama’s legislative session, I’m asking lawmakers to pass the hands-free bill and save lives.

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House Bill 404 will make holding or touching a cell phone, or other wireless telecommunication devices, while driving illegal. This hands-free bill is designed to make our roads safer by requiring drivers to be more responsible behind the wheel. The hands-free legislation is not meant to take away your rights to be talking via your hands-free device; you can still make a one-touch phone call and you can use GPS to help navigate. However, this law does prevent you from texting, watching YouTube, streaming Netflix or looking at your Facebook feed while driving.

Just last year, we watched our neighbor, the state of Georgia, become the 16th state to adopt hands-free legislation and since the law went into effect July 1, they have already seen positive results. Traffic fatalities fell 3.4 percent in 2018, and we can do the same or even better in Alabama if we pass similar legislation. Just a few weeks ago, both Arizona and Tennessee also recently passed hands-free laws to continue to make their roads safer.

The law enforcement community has come forward to tell us that the current law banning distracted driving is simply not enforceable, because officers can’t determine if someone was texting while driving or simply dialing a phone number or using GPS. Statistics show teens are particularly at risk. They are a shocking four times more likely than older drivers to get into accidents caused by distracted driving. This new law would prohibit the use of a wireless communication device altogether, except to follow a route on a navigation system, as long as the address information was entered prior to operating the vehicle or in an emergency situation.

There is a billboard on I-65 northbound in Pelham near the Cahaba Valley Rd exit. It is a picture of my daughter in her cap and gown as well as a picture of her car after the crash. Both pictures were taken on the same day. The billboard says, “DISTRACTED DRIVING KILLS GO HANDS FREE ALABAMA!”

I’m calling on every Alabamian to help make sure that by the time the billboard comes down, the hands- free bill is made a law. I’m asking that Alabamians call their senators and representatives and ask them to vote “Yes” for Cici’s Law, for their own safety as well as their families’ safety while behind the wheel.

We must continue to teach our loved ones about the dangers behind distracted driving. However, it’s our lawmakers who have the power to make a real impact and keep the roads safe.

The ripple effects of one distraction have caused a lifetime of pain and grief, for me, my family and my daughter’s friends. Cici was a wonderful daughter who made a very tragic mistake. Nothing will bring her back to me, but if this law can save other parents the pain of burying their own children, I owe it to her to continue to fight.

Michelle Lunsford is a National Safety Council advocate working for the “Road to Zero” mission to eliminate roadway deaths over the next 30 years. She is a frequent speaker at schools, churches and trauma prevention programs.

Byrne: Stop the crisis — Close the loopholes

(B. Byrne/Facebook)

Since Democrats took control of the House of Representatives, they have turned a blind eye to infanticide, promoted overregulation of American businesses, and sought socialist measures in the United States, oftentimes at the expense of the taxpayer.

They have also made it clear that they stand for open borders by ignoring the ongoing crisis at the southern border.

In the past five months, we have read story after story of illegal immigrants taking advantage of our weakened border and broken immigration system to commit horrendous, preventable crimes.

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In March, there was a 230 percent increase in illegal border crossings in the Yuma Sector of Arizona alone.

That same month, a man who had been deported two times made his way back into our country and raped and killed an innocent woman in New Jersey.

And in Southwest Alabama, a beloved educator at Living Word Christian Center Kingdom Academy, Sonya Jones, was killed in a head-on wreck in Mobile by an illegal immigrant who failed to appear at a court date for his immigration case.

Too often our system allows foreigners to come into our country illegally, slip through the cracks, and commit horrific acts.

If Democrat House leadership would stop stonewalling and act, we could prevent these tragedies, and innocent Americans wouldn’t be needlessly put at risk.

I stand with President Trump and his continued calls to fund national security improvements at our border and fix our broken system. We owe it to the American people.

That is why I cosponsored the Fix the Immigration Loopholes Act. Congress must close the loopholes that continue to allow historic numbers of illegal immigrants to enter our country.

This legislation includes three reforms to prevent illegal immigration: fixing the Flores settlement, closing loopholes in the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA), and improving the asylum system.

The Flores case settlement, reached in 1997, states that children who come into the country illegally must be released into the U.S. after only 20 days. This terrible legal settlement, put in place by the Clinton administration, caused the family separation problem last year. This bill will ensure children entering the country illegally are not separated from their parent or guardian while their claim is processed. It also contains measures to ensure that the accompanying adult truly is their parent or legal guardian, reducing the incentive for illegal immigrants to smuggle children to increase their chance of release into our country.

Closing loopholes in the TVPRA will do much to ensure that unaccompanied minors are quickly and safely returned to their home. Current policy only allows expedited action to be taken for children from countries that border the U.S. Children from other countries must go through a long court process, during which time they are released into our country. Oftentimes, they disappear before their court proceeding occurs. This bill will make sure they receive a hearing within 14 days and that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is provided with biographical information about the person or persons they are released to, helping to prevent human trafficking.

Lastly, this bill closes loopholes in the asylum process by tightening the “credible fear” standard which promotes frivolous and fraudulent claims of asylum. It also increases penalties for making false or frivolous claims in asylum proceedings. Currently, only about 20 percent of asylum claims are granted.

Illegal immigrants committing heinous, preventable crimes and smuggling children clearly constitutes a crisis. Our porous border must be secured by eliminating loopholes that incentivize illegality.

While Democrats stand idly by, I will continue to fight for your safety.

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

1 week ago

Can we afford higher tax rates?

(Pixabay)

Several Democratic presidential candidates are proposing raising the top income tax rate to 70 percent. Proponents want tax hikes to stem worsening inequality and adequately fund the Federal government. Opponents contend that such high tax rates will significantly reduce economic growth.

Economists are famous for disagreeing, but we agree that if we tax anything, we will have less of it. Income taxes reduce the incentive to work and produce income. The extreme case of a 100 percent tax illustrates this. With a 100 percent income tax, a person working full time and earning $50,000 will have the same after tax income as if they did not work. Who will work for nothing?

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The Federal income tax is progressive, meaning that the marginal tax rate (the tax paid on the next $1,000 earned) increases with income. The highest current rate of 37 percent applies to income over $500,000. Marginal rates only apply to additional earnings. The tax rate on incomes over $1 million a year does not affect the taxes owed by Americans earning $100,000.

Diminishing marginal utility of income increases the disincentive of top rates. People value an extra $1,000 less when they have $500,000 than when they have $5,000. Millionaires can already pay for life’s necessities. A millionaire facing a 70 percent tax rate who could earn another million dollars might prefer to spend the money they have instead of working for $300,000 after taxes.

The 1980s tax cuts lowered top marginal tax rates from 70 to 28 percent to improve incentives, especially for the most productive earners. Elimination of loopholes made up for much of the revenue lost due to lower rates.

Evidence confirms the cost of high taxes. Internationally, higher tax rates are associated with slower economic growth. Domestically, people and income are migrating from high to low tax states. In 2016, New York lost $8 billion in personal income, while Florida added $17 billion.

Yet other evidence suggests that high taxes might not cost so much. First off, some billionaires continue to work. Anyone with more money than they could spend in a dozen lifetimes who continues to work must value something other than consuming more stuff. If so, will they work less in response to higher taxes? Indeed, despite a top tax rate of 90 percent until the Kennedy tax cuts in 1964, the 1950s and 1960s had the fastest economic growth of any decades since the end of World War II.

Creative economy workers frequently labor for modest monetary rewards. The Beatles complained in Taxman about Britain’s high taxes and yet created and performed their music. Digital copying has made making money from music difficult but has not killed off new music. Computer programmers contribute code for open source software for free.

The saying that money can’t buy happiness contains truth. We fill our closets, garages, and storage units with stuff (or junk). Netflix’s Tidying Up with Marie Kondo recommends throwing out anything not bringing us joy. Perhaps higher taxes will make us only buy things bringing joy.

After securing life’s necessities, many of the things people work for are positional goods. We value keeping up with (or ahead of) the Joneses, while billionaires try moving up the Forbes list of the 400 richest Americans. We cannot all acquire positional goods: everyone cannot have the nicest car. High tax rates might keep us from a fruitless pursuit of positional goods.

Can we integrate this conflicting evidence? For starters, the high-income tax rates of the 1950s were almost irrelevant due to loopholes. The interplay of monetary and nonmonetary motives is complicated, and people might react differently when high tax rates prevent earning extra income. And even if money cannot buy happiness, high taxes may make us quite unhappy.

Can we afford higher taxes? Yes, although taxes entail costs, and the costs rise with tax rates. We must decide whether we want the Federal government to play a large or small role in our economy and lives. A large role for Washington will require higher taxes, and these taxes will be costly.

Daniel Sutter is the Charles G. Koch Professor of Economics with the Manuel H. Johnson Center for Political Economy at Troy University and host of Econversations on TrojanVision. The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Troy University.

Roby: A report from my eighth Mother’s Day visit with troops overseas

(M. Roby/Facebook)

On May 7th, I returned from a bipartisan female congressional delegation (CODEL) to Afghanistan and Jordan, led by my good friend and colleague Congresswoman Susan Davis from California. This CODEL marked my eighth year traveling to visit with deployed U.S. soldiers and Afghan women around Mother’s Day. During the trip, I had the privilege of meeting with U.S. service members and top military commanders as well as Afghan and Jordanian leaders.

It is a tremendous honor to make this trip each year to spend time with our brave military personnel. The visit always serves as a reminder of our servicemembers’ sacrifices: They spend months at a time away from their families, often in harm’s way, defending our freedoms. I am so grateful to have this opportunity to thank some of our heroes in person for the difficult work they do to keep our nation secure.

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This annual trip is also important because it affords me the opportunity to reaffirm my commitment to improving circumstances for Afghan women. I am glad to report that Afghan women have recently experienced progress toward obtaining basic human rights, and they are also playing an increased role in the Afghan National Defense Security Forces. It is critical that American leaders remain engaged to ensure continued forward momentum for these women. The success of Afghan women is indicative of the entire country’s success, and I am optimistic about the process toward reaching peace.

Our time in Jordan was also very rewarding. I am grateful for our country’s important relationship with this ally and for the stability they bring to the region.

I am thankful for our servicemembers every single day, but as a mom myself, I am especially grateful for these women – and men – around holidays like Mother’s Day. If you are a parent, I think we can probably agree that parenting, while a precious blessing, is challenging in its own right. I am overcome with gratitude for the brave men and women who wake up each day striving to be the best parent they can be while also dedicating their own lives in service to this country so that we can be safe and so future generations can experience the freedom that is uniquely American.

In the spirit of Mother’s Day, I would like to extend my sincerest thanks to all servicemembers, but especially to the moms and dads who wear the uniform. Many of us spend this special holiday with our families and loved ones, and we are only able to do this because of your sacrifices. Finally, I hope we will all keep in our thoughts and prayers the parents who are currently deployed, including those I was fortunate to spend time with in Afghanistan and Jordan, and the children here at home awaiting their safe return.

Martha Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District. She lives in Montgomery, Alabama, with her husband Riley and their two children.

1 week ago

Alabama abortion hangs in the balance

(Pixabay)

HB314 bans abortion for any reason except for the life of the mother. The bill’s purpose is to establish the personhood of the unborn child and to challenge Roe v. Wade, which ruled that the unborn is not a person and does not deserve protection under the U.S. Constitution.

HB314 passed the Alabama House of Representatives in its original form on April 30. It was in the Senate Health Committee on Wednesday, May 8 and Sen. Whatley (R-Auburn) added an amendment which allows abortions for rape or incest. The amendment was passed in committee by a voice vote and was added to the bill. The amended bill came to the Senate floor on May 9 for debate and a final vote. There was a motion to “table” the amendment which was quickly accepted (“table” means to remove the amendment). So now the bill is back to its original form which is where it needs to be to challenge Roe v. Wade. The Senate then adjourned for the weekend. They will come back on Tuesday, May 14 at 4:00 p.m. to vote on the bill. We know they will try to add the amendment back on before the final vote.

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The bill’s purpose is to establish personhood. If an amendment is added for rape or incest then that destroys the personhood argument. It would be inconsistent to say that the unborn child is a person, but that if he is conceived as a result of rape or incest, he is not a person. An amendment would destroy the bill’s chance to challenge Roe v. Wade. If we are going to abolish abortion, we must pass a clean bill.

Almost half of the Republican senators and all of the Democrats will try to add an exemption for rape and incest. Before Tuesday, May 14, we must convince the Republican senators to pass a clean bill. They need to hear from you! (Remember, it was a Republican who added the amendment in committee!)

Find your senator and his/her contact info by going to www.AlabamaEagle.org. Click on the top of the home page on a tab called “Contact Elected Officials.”

Call or email a message saying: “Please pass HB314-the Alabama Human Life Protection Act (or the abortion bill) in its original form with no amendments!” It’s as easy as that. You won’t have to debate anyone or explain anything-it can be as simple as one sentence. They are waiting to hear from you. I can assure the pro-abortion folks will be burning up their lines telling them to add the amendment. We must out-number them!

Becky Gerritson is the executive director of Eagle Forum of Alabama

1 week ago

It’s time to reform occupational licensing in Alabama

(Pixabay)

Did you know that it’s against the law to braid hair, wash hair or even plant flowers professionally in Alabama without a license?

That’s because occupational licensing, originally meant to protect consumers, has gotten way out of hand. A video recently produced by the Alabama Policy Institute illustrates just how ridiculous it has become.

Sure, licensing certain occupations is a good thing. We need to know our builders, physicians, attorneys and those practicing many other specialized and potentially dangerous professions are being well regulated.

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But the process has evolved beyond its original intent. Sometimes, it seems to be more about controlling the market and restricting access to competition rather than public safety.

“Alabama licenses a total of 151 occupations, covering over 432,000 Alabama workers, which represents over 21 percent of the state’s labor force,” wrote the authors of The Costs of Occupational Licensing in Alabama, a special report commissioned by API.

The report found that the initial costs of occupational licensing are $122 million, with another $45 million for renewals plus $243 million in annual continuing education costs.

Those costs are eventually passed along to the consumers.

Thankfully, we have an opportunity to at least slow further growth of occupational licensing in Alabama.

State Rep. Randall Shedd (R-Fairview) has introduced House Bill 88, known as the Alabama Sunrise Act.

Under existing law, the Alabama Sunset Committee is responsible for periodically reviewing state professional licensing boards, agencies, and commissions to ensure they’re operating effectively and ethically.

Shedd’s bill would reform the committee’s processes by adding a “sunrise” provision so that when a new licensing requirement is proposed, lawmakers would have an objective set of thorough standards to judge its merits.

The bill states that “no profession or occupation be subject to regulation by the state unless the regulation is necessary to protect the public health, safety, or welfare from significant and discernible harm or damage and that the police power of the state (is exercised only to the extent necessary for that purpose.”

In other words, it would have to be more about protecting the people than protecting the profession, used only as a last resort, and even then it would be applied to the least degree possible.

The bill sets down several requirements that a proposal must satisfy before a new license is created, including:

  • Demonstrate that it wouldn’t have an unreasonable effect on job creation or job retention, or place unreasonable access or restrictions on the ability of individuals who are practicing the profession.
  • Explain why the public cannot be effectively protected by other means.
  • And provide documentation of the nature and extent of the harm to the public caused by the unregulated practice of the profession or occupation.

Unless we do something now, we should expect the trend to continue.

“In the past six decades, instances of occupational licensing in the United States have increased from a coverage of around 5 percent of the U.S. labor force to a present-day coverage of close to 25 percent of the U.S. labor force,” wrote Peter Q. Blair and Bobby W. Chung in a recent policy memo from the Cato Institute.

Those pushing for additional occupational licensing may have the best of intentions, but we should remind them of the simple phrase uttered by a Frenchmen more than 200 years ago. His words captured the essence of the free market and became the slogan for an emerging economic doctrine that formed the bedrock of America’s prosperity.

When a meddling advisor to King Louis XIV asked a group of struggling businessmen in Paris how the government could help them increase profits, a frustrated factory owner named Legendre bravely shouted,

“Laissez-nousfaire!”

Translation: “Leave us alone!”

Contact your state lawmaker today and tell them you want some of the boards to simply leave us alone and that the Alabama Sunrise Act should receive a public hearing before the House Boards Agencies and Commissions Committee, and soon.

J. Pepper Bryars is a senior fellow at the Alabama Policy Institute. Follow him on Twitter at @jpepperbryars.

2 weeks ago

What’s behind today’s drinking water?

(Ductile Iron Pipe Research Association/Facebook)

This is National Drinking Water Week, a week in which we highlight the essential role of drinking water in our society and economy. But how did we get here?

Municipal water systems are a more recent development than many realize. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, workers and their families moved from rural areas and cities grew to support the factories driving the Industrial Revolution. Many got their water from a well in the backyard and used a nearby outhouse in the same back yard. Waterborne disease was common, and it was not unusual for cities to lose tens of thousands to fevers and other water-borne diseases, especially in hot summers. Visionary leaders in various locales across the country 150 to 120 years ago saw the need and the resultant benefits of municipal water systems.

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As a result, clean water is the greatest advancement in public health in the history of the world. We see clean water ministries and initiatives around the world today and they are worthy of our support. We take for granted here in America that our tap has clean and pure water safe to drink, cook, and bathe. And while the price we pay for this precious and necessary component of our lives is moving toward the cost to provide it, it remains the greatest value in our budgets.

When these municipal water systems were built, options were few, and cast iron was the pipe material of choice. With a plethora of contemporary material options today, modern ductile iron continues to be the strongest, most sustainable and most resilient material. It’s made from recycled iron and steel, requires less energy to operate and use, lasts longer and has greater life-cycle value than alternatives. Other pipe materials such as lead, asbestos-cement and PVC have come and some have gone, but iron pipe remains sure and steady as the standard for quality municipal water system construction.

Birmingham, Alabama, is the ductile iron pipe manufacturing capital of America, and the Alabama Iron and Steel Council is proud to salute our ductile iron members and the products they manufacture to build the world’s safest and most sustainable drinking water systems. Iron Pipe: It’s what America is Built On.

Maury D. Gaston is Chairman of the Alabama Iron and Steel Council, a council of Manufacture Alabama. He is a mechanical engineering graduate of Auburn University, 37-year water industry veteran, and Manager of Marketing Services for AMERICAN Cast Iron Pipe.

Byrne: American values leave no room for socialism

(Rep. Byrne)

Last week, I was honored to address a group of newly naturalized citizens of the United States. It was an experience that gave me the opportunity to reflect on a question as old as our nation itself: “What does it mean to be an American?”

In the United States, we don’t define citizenship as being part of the dominant ethnic group. And we do not define citizenship as being part of the dominant religion or hound out those with whom we disagree. Nor are we defined as the subjects of a monarch or strongman dictator.

Indeed, we Americans believe that “we the people” can govern ourselves.

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It has been said that democracy acts as a mirror: the government you get in practice often reflects the virtues of its people. Benjamin Franklin is said to have acknowledged the burden of our system when asked what type of new government the Constitutional Convention had created. His answer? “A republic, if you can keep it.”

Unfortunately, there are some today that are losing sight of what our founders intended when our country was established.

Our federal government was designed to be limited because our Founders had been the victims of a despotic king and an uncaring parliament. So, the first words in our Constitution are, “We the People.” Note that those words aren’t “We the Government.” Over and over, the Constitution limits what the government can do and how it can do it. Why does it look so difficult to pass a law in Washington? Because it is supposed to be difficult, a byproduct of the Founders’ skepticism of consolidated government power.

In Washington today, though, there are those who are trying to turn away from these founding principles. Instead, they want to turn toward measures that create a more invasive and overreaching government. In short, they are looking to socialism to answer the problems that face us today, rather than a return to our founding principles.

Policies like Medicare for All and the Green New Deal attempt to use the government to fix problems in broad-sweeping, all-encompassing acts that forget about the individual, the economy, and our responsibilities as citizens of the United States.

Last week, socialism received a reality check in the form of a report proponents of these policies ordered themselves. The Congressional Budget Office issued an analysis on transforming our healthcare system in the United States to a single, government-operated system. Not only would it cost trillions of dollars for decades, but it would also be “complicated, challenging and potentially disruptive.”

We don’t have to look far to see the problems caused by socialism. The issues currently facing the country of Venezuela stem from their socialist policies and government overreach. Socialism took a country that has the largest proven oil reserves in the world and drove it down to the point that people are getting their drinking water from sewage ditches.

Yet when President Trump said that America is not a socialist country, half of Congress sat on their hands. The American people do not want what they have in Venezuela here in the United States.

Through our continuing great American experiment, certain longstanding values must continue to define us. Americans believe in hard work and honesty. We think common sense is more important than dollars and cents.

As I said, there are some here in America who want us to change. Change has always been a part of our country and our national identity. But the fundamentals, these values that underlie our national character, should never change. In fact, we should continue to build on them to, in the words of the Preamble to the Constitution, “form a more perfect union.”

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

2 weeks ago

Which Alabama city is the freest?

(Wikicommons)

Economic freedom is the freedom to engage in commerce and use our property as we see fit. Over the past 25 years, economists have developed measures of the economic freedom of nations and states. A new measure of the economic freedom of metropolitan areas (MSAs) allows us to answer which Alabama city has the most economic freedom?

Measuring economic freedom allows investigation of whether free markets deliver the benefits which economists like I promise. Dozens of papers now document how freer nations and states are richer, grow faster, have less inequality, and cleaner environments.

The Fraser Institute’s Economic Freedom of North America (EFNA) measures the freedom of U.S. and Mexican states and Canadian provinces. The EFNA’s lead author, Dr. Dean Stansel, has taken the state scores down to the MSA. This index will enable research on whether freer markets help explain the variation in prosperity within states.

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The index scores MSAs based on government spending, taxes, and labor market freedom. The ratings use the Census of Governments with data from America’s 90,000 governments, including cities, counties and school districts. Economic freedom is scored on a 0 to 10 scale, with 10 indicating the most freedom. The freest MSA is Naples, Florida, with a score of 8.55, while the least free is El Centro, California, at 4.22. Among MSAs with populations over one million, Houston is best at 8.00 and Riverside worst at 5.23.

Birmingham tops Alabama’s 12 MSAs with a score of 6.81, followed by Montgomery and Huntsville. Alabama’s least free metros are Dothan and Auburn-Opelika, with scores of just over 6.0, a relatively modest difference in freedom. If we dig deeper, Alabama’s metros have the best scores on the taxes component and the worst on labor market freedom.

Economic freedom seems to affect metropolitan income and growth. The freest cities have per capita income 6 percent above average, while the least free cities have income 5 percent below average. The freest MSAs also have significantly faster-growing populations.

I should point out that the index excludes zoning and land use regulation. Zoning makes construction of new housing almost impossible in some of America’s largest cities, preventing construction of higher density apartment buildings. An artificially limited supply increases housing cost.

MSA scores reflect the freedom rankings of their state. Cities from Florida and Texas, two of the freest states, dominate the top of the rankings while California and New York cities populate the bottom ranks. Alabama ranks near the middle of the states, and our MSAs reside in the middle of the national rankings. Among the 52 large MSAs, Birmingham ranks 26. Alabama’s other MSAs rank between 118 and 247 among the 330 MSAs with fewer than one million people.

Sizable differences in freedom exist among the cities of some states. MSA freedom exhibits a spread of 4.3 points across the nation. California, New Jersey, and Texas all have differences of over 2.2 points, or half the national spread. California is a relatively unfree state, but its freest MSA is San Jose, which has helped Silicon Valley’s growth.

Some within-state differences may result from scaling: many of the measures of freedom are scaled by income. This lowers the measured economic freedom of poorer MSAs. To see why, Alabama has no state minimum wage. The Federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour is effective throughout the state. But when divided by MSA per capita income, measured freedom will be lower where income is lowest.

The differences within states illustrate something I call the Upstate New York Dilemma. Economic freedom is just one of many things people care about. Cities like New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle have lots going for them; people will tolerate high taxes and heavy-handed regulations to live in Manhattan. Many fewer people will accept burdensome government to live in snowy and cold Buffalo or Rochester.

No measure of economic freedom will be perfect. Yet once we measure something, we usually readily improve and refine the measurements. The early returns suggest that economic freedom affects the prosperity of Alabama’s cities.

Daniel Sutter is the Charles G. Koch Professor of Economics with the Manuel H. Johnson Center for Political Economy at Troy University and host of Econversations on TrojanVision. The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Troy University.

2 weeks ago

Rep. Roby: An Accurate 2020 Census is Vitally Important to Alabama

Every ten years, the U.S. Census Bureau conducts a count of every resident in the United States, as mandated by Article I, Section 2 of our Constitution. This action is critically important to understanding current facts and figures about our country’s people, places, and economy. It’s hard to believe that a decade has almost passed, and we are just eleven months away from next year’s April 1 Census.

It goes without saying that a lot has changed over the last ten years, especially on the technological front. As times and trends change, it is important that the method by which we conduct the Census also evolves to ensure we are reaching the most people possible. That said, it’s no surprise that in 2020, we will largely depend on an Internet system to count Americans, relying heavily on digital advertising and social media platforms to spread the word.

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As the Census Bureau works to modernize its various platforms ahead of the 2020 Census, I was glad to hear about these efforts directly from Dr. Steven Dillingham, Director of the U.S. Census Bureau, during a recent Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee hearing. During this hearing, I had the opportunity to discuss with Director Dillingham how important it is that all Alabamians be accurately counted in 2020.

Back in 2010, our state did not do a great job accounting for all of our people, especially children below the age of six and those individuals in rural communities. As I told Director Dillingham, we must make sure that is not the case in next year’s count. You see, the Census doesn’t just decide the number of congressional seats Alabama has, it also decides our number of Electoral College votes. We currently have nine Electoral College votes, and if the 2020 Census is not accurate, that number will drop to eight. This is a very big deal, and it is something we Alabamians do not want to see happen.

The Census also determines the amount of federal dollars that come into Alabama, specifically to hospitals, job training centers, schools, infrastructure projects, and other emergency services. Inaccurate Census numbers force our state to do more with less, and that cannot happen again in 2020.

As we all know, Alabama’s Second District and the rest of the Southeastern corner of the state are made up of very rural communities. To achieve the most accurate count possible in next year’s Census, it is critical that we reach the men, women, and children living in the rural areas throughout the country.

During my conversation with Director Dillingham, I asked him how the Census Bureau plans to use its resources to partner with our state and community-based organizations to encourage participation in the Census, especially in hard-to-count, rural communities. I made sure Director Dillingham understands that a large part of our district, and many areas of our state, lack access to reliable broadband and thus may not utilize the Internet and social media enough to encounter online advertising about the upcoming Census. This will certainly be a challenge, but it is one we must address.

I also brought up another challenging reality that we must face: Over the last year, Alabama and other states in the Southeast have been beaten with hurricanes, tornadoes, and other powerful storms. There has been flooding throughout the Midwest and fires ravaging California. These disastrous events have caused thousands of Americans to be displaced from their homes, and we must ensure that they, too, are counted in next year’s Census.

To make sure the 2020 Census is as accurate as it can possibly be, it is important that leaders on all levels of federal, state, and local governments are communicating about ways we can spread the word and reach the most people. I believe the modernization of our Census process will lead to excellent results next year, but it is critical that we make every effort to reach those who have been displaced by severe weather as well as the people in rural communities who may not have reliable access to social media and online advertising.

The future of our state’s representation in Congress and the Electoral College are at stake, and we must ensure that Alabama receives its fair share of federal funding for numerous programs we all depend on. I encourage you to start spreading the word about the April 1, 2020, Census. It will be here before we know it, and Alabama needs an accurate count.

Martha Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District. She lives in Montgomery, Alabama, with her husband Riley and their two children.

2 weeks ago

Mike Rogers’ report from Washington: Fixing the border crisis

(M. Rogers/Facebook, CBP/Twitter)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — As the humanitarian and national security crisis continues unabated at our southern border, Democrats refuse to acknowledge what is really happening. Unfortunately, this is becoming a pattern for them.

They even go as far to say it is a manufactured crisis by the Trump administration. Before President Trump took office, those same folks that are completely against solving the crisis now, were in favor of helping solve it then.

Numbers don’t lie. Just in March, border apprehensions were up 450 percent compared with March of 2017 — 450 percent!

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In the first six and a half months of this fiscal year, more migrants – totaling at 414,000 – than all of last fiscal year have already been apprehended. These numbers prove that we have a true crisis on our hands.

And if that’s not enough, we are also having to deal with these individuals abusing the asylum system.

In order to try and deal with this crisis, President Trump announced that his administration will impose new regulations on the United States asylum system.

As it is set up now, criminals, drug smugglers, human traffickers and terrorists use the flaws in the system to their advantage.

This is just plain dangerous. We must only protect those individuals with legitimate asylum claims.

I applaud President Trump on taking this step to help secure our border and make our country safer. Besides these rules changes, we all know the importance and urgency of building the wall.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I traveled on Air Force One with President Trump and a few of my colleagues to California to see firsthand the barriers being used on our Southwest border.

These barriers are an important part of the wall system in addition to technology and manpower. They were impressive to see in person and I will say it again: Walls work.

President Trump will continue to have my unwavering support as we work together to secure our Southwest border and end the national security and humanitarian crises that have gone on far too long.

U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers is a Republican from Saks. 

2 weeks ago

Every citizen in Alabama deserves high-speed broadband

(Contributed, YHN)

Alabama’s economy is booming with record low unemployment, wages on the rise and new industries continuing to choose our state to expand their businesses. However, we are lagging in providing critical broadband infrastructure to all our citizens. For too long, the expansion of fast, reliable internet service has been concentrated in larger cities while rural residents have no internet service or they are forced to pay for substandard access to today’s worldwide networked economy.

No one can dispute that our state is far behind the curve in providing rural broadband access. This shortcoming not only hurts those who live outside our cities, but it is detrimental to the overarching success of our economy. It is not fair that small business owners, farmers, schoolchildren and their parents cannot participate in our 21st century world on the same playing field as those living in urban areas.

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Many of us cannot imagine being unable to grab our smartphone to check email, to find the cheapest gas station or to answer that trivia question posed on the radio. Completing those tasks online are a natural part of modern life, as commonplace as setting an alarm clock – which, by the way, we do via phone now too. Think about how reliant schoolchildren are on the internet, both in class and at home. While some may long for the “good old days,” it’s fairly certain that parents of schoolchildren are thankful that homework research can be done in the family room instead of downtown at the public library.

For too many Alabamians, quick and reliable access to the internet is not available and parents worry that their children are being left behind. That’s why the rapidly growing Alabama Rural Broadband Coalition was created, which is comprised of a diverse membership of organizations representing the business community, education, agriculture, healthcare and economic development. Groups like the Business Council of Alabama, ALFA Farmers Federation, the Economic Development Association of Alabama, as well as organizations representing K-12 and post-secondary, along with the Alabama Hospital Association and many others have joined in support of expanding rural broadband in our state.

Entrepreneurs don’t just live in big-city lofts or in wealthy suburbs, either. How many ideas are being squashed before they get a chance to mature and blossom into the next big thing because of inferior internet service? How many people are being denied access to medical breakthroughs in areas such as telemedicine because of pathetic connectivity?

Expanding high-speed broadband internet access to rural areas of Alabama is critical to the state’s economic viability. Our No. 1 industry – agriculture – would benefit immensely from reliable, fast internet service. Today’s farmers don’t rely (exclusively, anyway) on the Almanac. Weather reports in real time are often critical. Up-to-date crop and livestock prices, information on financial management, as well as GPS technologies that help drive our tractors and operate chicken houses allow farmers to survive in their razor-thin profit margin business through internet connectivity.

These problems do not have to continue in Alabama. We have the chance to provide broadband access to every corner of the state. Currently, the Alabama Legislature has the chance to open new opportunities to citizens forced to do without broadband in House Bill 400, being put forward by my colleagues in our State House. This proposed law – introduced by Reps. Randall Shedd and Nathaniel Ledbetter – will allow electric providers to install, operate and maintain broadband systems. Electric providers could offer broadband services directly or through an affiliate. They could allow a third party to provide broadband using the electric provider’s easements. The bill would not allow an electric provider to require residents to purchase broadband services as a condition of electricity service.

A companion bill in the Senate, Senate Bill 90, expands the Alabama Broadband Accessibility Act, providing grants for projects that will increase broadband across the state. This bill also seeks to encourage private investment in unserved areas and certain rural parts of Alabama. Senate Bill 90 has widespread support in the Alabama Senate, with myself and the bill’s sponsor Senator Clay Scofield we are joined by our co-sponsors: Cam Ward, Greg Reed, Gerald Allen, Steve Livingston, Andrew Jones, Tom Whatley, Randy Price, Jimmy Holley, J.T. “Jabo” Waggoner, Jack Williams, David Sessions, Donnie Chesteen, William “Billy” Beasley, Greg Albritton, Clyde Chambliss, Rodger Smitherman and Bobby Singleton.

Electric providers in Alabama strive to give their customers reliable, affordable power. House Bill 400 and Senate Bill 90 will allow them to do the same with high-speed broadband access. Please consider asking your state legislators to support providing rural broadband so all Alabamians have access to fast, reliable internet services. We believe this is the right thing to do.

Sen. Del Marsh is President Pro Tempore of the Alabama Senate. He represents District 12, including Calhoun and Talladega counties. Marsh was elected to the Senate in 1998 and was reelected for a fifth term in 2014. He was first elected President Pro Tempore in 2010.

3 weeks ago

Alabama should wait and watch before considering Medicaid expansion

(Pixabay, YHN)

If only Alabama’s leaders had a magical Medicaid “Choose Your Own Adventure” book, so they could flip ahead and see the different outcomes we could expect by expanding the government insurance program that was originally designed for the poor and disabled.

Would it end in a stronger economy, more jobs and a vibrant system of rural hospitals?

“Medicaid expansion remains an economic development opportunity without equal,” said David Becker, an economics professor at UAB, in an AL.com article.

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Or would it bankrupt our already cash-strapped state budget and further sink our country into unsustainable levels of national debt?

“When you expand Medicaid, the administrative costs and the cost of expansion will eventually swamp the state,” warned U.S. Rep. Gary Palmer (R-Hoover), during an interview on the Matt & Aunie Show on Talk 99.5 FM in Birmingham. “It has in other states. Illinois is about to go bankrupt.”

Each side makes a strong case, but the truth seems hidden behind a fog of experts, statistics and forecasts that confuse more than clarify.

The Economic Impact

A UAB study conducted by Becker and paid for by the Alabama Hospital Association found that even when Alabama starts paying 10 percent of the expansion’s costs, the move would create thousands of new jobs and generate $2.7 billion a year in economic activity. Becker wrote that the expense would be “almost entirely offset” by new tax revenue and state spending reductions on current Medicaid enrollees and other health programs.

And another study funded by the same association concluded that “state savings and other economic gains from expansion could be reinvested in the health care system in Alabama, including to support expansion and other state priorities.”

But critics say those predictions are extremely unrealistic and point to how widely off the mark such estimates have been elsewhere.

States that expanded Medicaid have signed up more than twice as many “able-bodied adults” than expected and per-person costs have exceeded original estimates by a whopping 76 percent, according to a 2018 report by the Foundation for Government Accountability. This led to cost overruns of 157 percent, the report showed, with Medicaid now accounting for one of every three state budget dollars.

Many expect the same overruns in Alabama, which would exacerbate our already challenging budget.

“We will have to find $250 million more in the state general fund every year, even when revenues decline in recessions,” said Daniel Sutter, an economics professor and director of the Manuel H. Johnson Center for Political Economy at Troy University, in an email. “Alabama’s perennial budget crisis is due largely to having to pay for Medicaid every year. Medicaid expansion makes this pressure worse.”

Hospital Closures

Supporters of Medicaid expansion most often mention that 12 Alabama hospitals have closed this decade, with many being in rural areas possibly leaving residents without critical care nearby. Expanding the program, they contend, may have saved those hospitals, and could still save many that are at risk.

“Those are critical dollars for us as our hospitals currently spend more than $500 million each year in care for which they receive no reimbursement,” said Owen Bailey, chairman of the board of the Alabama Hospital Association and CEO of USA Health, in a press release. “Providing insurance through Medicaid expansion is vital to maintain access to care for everyone.”

While an influx of Medicaid cash would help these hospitals in the short term, it’s unclear if it solves the underlying problems that created their instability in the first place.

Hospitals are losing money and closing for a variety of reasons, according to The New York Times — shrinking rural populations, hospital mergers, consolidated services, regulatory burdens, low reimbursement rates, and a decrease in hospital care due to outpatient services and speedier care that requires less hospital time.

Officials at one Kansas hospital that closed in 2015 told The Times that additional Medicaid funds would have been significant but probably would not have helped them survive in the long run.

Meanwhile, help could come from elsewhere. The federal agency that oversees Medicare recently announced that its “tweaking” the formula used to reimburse hospitals in Alabama, a move that AL.com noted could increase payments to rural hospitals.

A way forward

When economists are arguing vastly different forecasts and outcomes, it’s often helpful to fall back to a few simple yet immutable conservative principles. Chief among them is the principle of prudence, which basically says we shouldn’t rush big decisions – decisions that have long-term consequences and that cannot easily be reversed, if at all.

Medicaid expansion is clearly one of those decisions.

And even without that magical Medicaid “Choose Your Own Adventure” book, there have already been unexpected plot twists, and clear deathtraps, for other states who decided to expand the program.

Alabama should wait and watch to see if the promises, or the fears, are realized.

We should also patiently observe states taking alternate storylines through Medicaid waiverspartial Medicaid expansion requests and block grant plans.

Otherwise, if Alabama takes the bait and expands Medicaid, we might turn the final page only to see that ominous yet sadly predictable word.

Bankrupt.

J. Pepper Bryars is a senior fellow at the Alabama Policy Institute. Follow him on Twitter at @jpepperbryars.

3 weeks ago

Agriculture research funding needed

(ALFA/Flickr)

American agriculture has long been the envy of the world. Thanks to investment in plant and animal breeding, pest management, conservation and automation, U.S. farmers have more than doubled productivity since 1980 while reducing erosion and protecting the environment.

If America is to remain a farming superpower, we must strengthen research efforts at our colleges and universities. That’s why Alabama Farmers Federation is calling on Congress to increase support for the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

Since 1921, the Farmers Federation has worked to build public support for agriculture and forestry. Securing funding for research at Alabama’s land grant universities was an early focus of the organization, and it remains a priority today.

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Each year, farmers set aside a portion of their harvest revenue to fund education, promotion and research through check-off programs. Over the years, these voluntary efforts have provided millions of dollars to Auburn University and other research institutions. Likewise, private companies leverage intelligence and innovation at our universities to develop new products and technologies.

Still, public investment is needed to ensure American agriculture and forestry remain globally competitive. Alabama’s Congressional delegation has been supportive of agriculture and forestry research. But in recent years, Brazil and China have outpaced America’s commitment to food and agricultural research. In fact, China is now investing twice as much as the U.S. on potentially groundbreaking research to help farmers feed, clothe and shelter a growing world.

NIFA provides a vehicle for coordinating research that can have immediate impact on the agriculture and forestry industries. In one example, over $18 million in competitive grants through NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) program have been awarded to research projects at Auburn University, Alabama A&M University, Tuskegee University and other state institutions. These AFRI grants, under NIFA, have allowed researchers to discover new ways for farmers to prevent infectious diseases that threaten farm animals; developed strategies to ward off pests that could affect soybean production; and helped farmers embrace data to increase profitability.

The Farmers Federation was founded in the decades following the passage of federal laws establishing land grant universities and Cooperative Extension Systems. Our country’s investment in the threefold land grant mission of instruction, research and outreach had a direct impact on the growth of productive and sustainable agricultural and forestry practices.

By pairing the scientific curiosity and initiative of researchers with the innovation and hard work of farmers, America became the world leader in agriculture. Our farmers learned to produce more food and fiber with fewer inputs. We developed conservation practices to reduce erosion and create habitat for wildlife. Families were given access to a greater variety of high-quality, nutritious food. And, we were able to export much of this technology to help poor and impoverished people around the world.

If the U.S. is to remain the leader in agriculture, we must invest in the future.

Alabama’s 40,000 farms generate $70 billion in economic impact and create one in every five jobs. These men and women possess the work ethic, ingenuity and dedication to take agriculture and forestry to the next level. They are investing their own hard-earned money in research. We ask Congress to join us in keeping American agriculture the envy of the world.

Jimmy Parnell is the president, CEO and chairman of the Board of the Alabama Farmers Federation.

We need a level playing field for franchise owners in Alabama

(Contributed/State Sen. Chris Elliott)

I knew it had happened to me, so I concluded it was happening to others.

I’m a small business owner, and for years I owned and operated small catastrophe-restoration franchises in Mobile and Baldwin Counties. If your home or store had fire or water damage, my team and I would come in and restore your shop or house.

It was hard work: there’s nothing clean or easy about ripping out walls that are rotting from mold, or painstakingly assessing the best way to remove fire-damaged cabinets while preserving the integrity of a kitchen’s interior. But it was rewarding, too: I was providing for my family, my team was giving great service to our customers and we were creating jobs.

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Unfortunately, it turned out that my franchisor was not interested in the long-term success of my business. They were interested in corporate profits, regardless of how it impacted the small business owners who operated their franchises.

I wanted to believe that this inequity was limited to my particular franchisor, but, sadly, it is not.

I learned that Alabama is a state without a franchisee-protection law. Through contact with the Alabama Franchisee Association, I learned that scores of Alabama businesses — both small and large — have essentially no rights and no protections. It has been a “take it or leave it” proposition, with franchisees having to take on more and more at each contract renewal.

I recently met Darrel Bush, whose family had operated the Huddle House in Wetumpka for more than 25 years. As the years went by, unreasonably-priced building and equipment upgrades were added to the extensions of the original contract, and the Bush family had no choice but to agree to the franchisor’s demands in order to stay afloat. Ultimately, the Bush family had to shut down its franchise. Huddle House is now looking to construct a new location, just down the road from the one the Bush family operated for a quarter-century.

None of this is right. Thankfully, I’m out of the franchisee business now, but I’m taking a stand for Alabama business owners with the introduction of the Protect Alabama Small Businesses Act, co-sponsored by Representative Connie Rowe of Jasper, in the Alabama legislature.

The Protect Small Businesses Act will create the level playing field that small business owners – particularly, our small franchisee owners – desperately need.

The bill provides three things:

  • Protection from unjust terminations and non-renewals without good cause. Franchisees should be compensated for fair market value for their investments.
  • Protection from unjust restrictions on sales and transfers.
  • Most importantly, the bill protects the right to sue in Alabama courts. Often, franchisors construct contracts that only allow for disputes to be settled in courts in New York City or Los Angles, where court costs and attorney’s fees are prohibitively expensive for small business owners in Alabama. If you’re 25 years old and working 80 hours a week to make your first Taco Bell franchisee profitable, you don’t have the time or money to battle Big Law hired-guns in a lower Manhattan courtroom, if a contract dispute arises.

I hope you will join me in protecting these Alabama family businesses, their employees, and our communities. Too many people have been harmed by one-sided agreements where the goalposts move quickly, and the deck is always stacked in favor of the large, out-of-state franchisors.

Chris Elliott represents Baldwin County in the Alabama State Senate, where he serves as Vice-Chairman of the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs. Follow him on Twitter for legislative updates: @SenatorElliott

Byrne: A big win for Alabama rural hospitals

(B. Byrne/Facebook)

A handful of stories in Washington generally get about 90 percent of the media’s attention. Don’t get me wrong, many of those stories are important, but much of my time in Washington is also focused on getting things done for Alabama that don’t make the front page.

This week we got a big win on just one of those many issues. Over the last ten years, Alabama has seen a string of hospitals close. Today, 88 percent of our rural Alabama hospitals are operating in the red. This is unsustainable and represents a major challenge.

When a rural hospital closes, it can be devastating for the surrounding area. High paying jobs are lost. Folks must drive much further for their healthcare. And, it makes it harder to attract new jobs and opportunity to our rural communities, one of my major goals.

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A significant driver of the hospital closure problem is a broken Medicare formula known as the “Wage Index.” Under the Wage Index, hospitals are paid different amounts for doing the exact same work. Some difference in payment makes sense, but Alabama hospitals are often paid thousands less than similar hospitals as nearby as Georgia or Florida. Some hospitals in areas like California and New York can be paid almost three times as much as Alabama hospitals. This is simply unfair and makes no sense.

For nearly three decades, Alabama hospitals have been facing declining Medicare reimbursement due to this fundamentally flawed reimbursement system. It has put an incredible strain on Alabama hospitals that has culminated in our rural hospital closures over the last decade.

To make it worse, under the Wage Index, the difference grows every year. The more your hospital spends, often the more it gets from Medicare. Only in Washington would we reward hospitals that bloat their costs with more money while punishing those who operate efficiently, but that is exactly how the Wage Index works. It has been a problem for Alabama for almost 30 years.

When President Trump came into office, one of the first things I did was meet with his Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma about this issue. Administrator Verma promised that she would look into the Wage Index. For nearly two years, my office continued to work with CMS looking for a solution. Representative Terri Sewell (D-Birmingham) and I organized 45 House Members whose districts have this same problem to make suggestions on fixes to the Trump administration.

Based on that hard work, the Trump administration put forward an exciting new proposal last week to reform the Wage Index. Under the administration’s plan, Alabama hospitals are set to receive approximately $34 million more per year from Medicare, with much of that money going to rural hospitals that need it the most. Even better, none of this is new spending. It’s simply redirecting federal funds that Alabama hospitals are owed that have been unfairly going to places like Los Angeles.

This is a huge win for our state and will help with the rural hospital problem. Like I said, you probably won’t hear much about it in the news. It’s not flashy, it’s not something that generates views and clicks, but things like this are critical to my work in Washington to move things forward for Alabama.

For years I have been calling for greater protections for our rural hospitals. It’s about more than just healthcare: it’s about jobs, it’s about growth, and it’s about our communities. Too often, rural America is forgotten in Washington. As long as I am there, I will always advocate for our rural communities here in Alabama.

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

3 weeks ago

Is climate policy debatable?

(G. Skidmore/Flickr)

President Trump is creating a Presidential Committee on Climate Security to scrutinize climate science. Princeton University physicist William Happer has been identified as a possible committee chair. Environmental groups consider Mr. Trump’s proposal heretical and label skeptics as climate change deniers. Nonetheless, I think that climate science, the environment, and our democracy will all benefit from this committee.

Why should we debate a settled question? Isn’t there “97 percent consensus” among scientists on climate change, and haven’t the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and National Climate Assessment (NCA) already determined that we face a crisis?
Climate consensus studies rely on reviews of published papers or surveys of scientists. The relevant scientific question is not whether humanity’s use of fossil fuels raises global temperatures, but rather the magnitude of this impact. The consensus is illusory as agreement on the first question is billed as consensus on the second question.

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The IPCC produces two documents, literature reviews conducted by scientists, and a “Summary for Policymakers” dictated by politicians. The media frequently reports only the “Summary,” which is really an advocacy document for climate alarmism. Surveys of IPCC scientists reveal far less confidence in the conclusions the Summary offers.

The 2018 NCA report received much media coverage for its dire predictions, but commentators noted numerous flaws. Roger Pielke, Jr., concluded that the NCA’s authors “have given a big fat gift to anyone who wants to dismiss climate science and policy.”

A significant body of scientific evidence disputes claims of an impending climate catastrophe. Interested readers can check out the two editions of The Nongovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Climate Change Reconsidered. Critically assessing the conflicting evidence is a task for the Presidential committee.

What constitutes an existential threat? The NCA projects that climate change might lower GDP by 10 percent, but that’s not the dire future depicted in Kevin Costner’s movie Waterworld. We can respond to a climate threat in multiple ways: mitigation, or reducing human-caused emissions of greenhouse gases; adaptation, or adjusting how we live to a warmer climate; and climate engineering, or reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide while still using fossil fuels. How to address climate change is an economic question. Exactly which questions does the “settled” climate science settle?

If climate change is an existential threat and we address it solely through mitigation, all nations will likely need to stop using fossil fuels within a few decades. This will require a significant expansion of government control over the economy. The impacts on our lives of ending the use of fossil fuels will be enormous.

In political discourse, is more government control over the economy a means of preventing cataclysmic climate change, or an end in itself? Proponents of markets and economic freedom will understandably demand better evidence to conclude that we face an existential threat than liberals.

Debating climate science today may also help protect the environment. Without widespread acceptance that we must bear the enormous costs of ending the use of fossil fuels, the required policies will prove politically unsustainable. President Obama did not submit the Paris Climate accord for Senate ratification and did not invite an open debate. This allowed President Trump to withdraw via executive order. Did avoiding debate help stem climate change in the long run?

Liberal democracy is based firmly on the belief that governments serve the interests of citizens. Americans can disagree on taxes, government spending, and regulation and maintain a liberal democracy in America as long as we accept the legitimacy of each other’s beliefs. Accepting the right to disagree means using words, ideas, and arguments to advance our favored positions and accept compromises when necessary.

The use of the term “climate change denier” is part of a trend which threatens liberal democracy. The term equates skepticism about hypothesized climate impacts decades in the future with denial of the Holocaust. This declares disagreement over climate policy illegitimate. We will not be able to preserve democracy if many Americans are not allowed to advocate for their favored policies through the political process.

Daniel Sutter is the Charles G. Koch Professor of Economics with the Manuel H. Johnson Center for Political Economy at Troy University and host of Econversations on TrojanVision. The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Troy University.

3 weeks ago

Roby: An April recap from the road

(M. Roby/Facebook)

While Congress was out of session for the April district work period, I had the opportunity to spend time on the road, traveling throughout Alabama’s Second District, meeting with constituents, businesses, industries and local leaders. As I always say, I appreciate every chance I get to hear directly from the people I represent, and I believe our interactions enable me to be a stronger advocate for our shared beliefs in Congress.

During the April district work period, I spent time in Prattville, Greenville, Evergreen, Castleberry, Tallassee, Montgomery and Dothan. Along the way, I had very productive conversations and am grateful to every person who took the time to share with me their thoughts, opinions and concerns.

In Prattville, I spoke to members of the Prattville Area Chamber of Commerce about my committee assignments for the 116th Congress and my priorities on behalf of the Second District. During the visit, I was glad to catch up with friends from the Business Council of Alabama, and I was honored to receive the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Spirit of Enterprise award recognizing my continued efforts to enact pro-business laws. In Congress, I will always push for an economic environment that enables companies of all sizes to flourish and succeed.

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In Greenville, I met with Mayor Dexter McClendon and other community leaders. We had a productive discussion about issues facing the Butler County area and ways my office can be helpful. In Evergreen, I spoke to a joint meeting of the Evergreen Rotary and Kiwanis Clubs and offered a legislative update from Washington.

In Castleberry, I stopped by the Weyerhaeuser lumber plant to visit with leadership and tour the impressive plant. Afterward, I paid a visit to Castleberry City Hall where I spoke with Mayor Henry Kirksey and others.

In Tallassee, I had the fantastic opportunity to speak to the Tallassee High School government class. I always enjoy any invitation to spend time with Alabama students and share with them the importance of service and leadership. This was a particularly impressive group of young people – they asked several thoughtful questions.

In Montgomery, I participated in a roundtable discussion with members of the Alabama Roadbuilders Association. I was grateful to hear their thoughts about ways we can reinvigorate our state and nation’s badly aging infrastructure. After this meeting, I visited MGMWERX for a tour. I was glad to learn more about their partnership with Air University and their ongoing projects to help our military remain on the cutting edge.

While in the Wiregrass, I joined Governor Kay Ivey, Dothan Mayor Mark Saliba, and other leaders to celebrate the Dothan Chamber of Commerce’s 100th anniversary. It was truly a privilege to honor this tremendous occasion alongside so many individuals who have worked tirelessly to make Houston County and great place to live and work. One hundred years ago, the Chamber started as a small office that helped establish the prices of produce and cotton. Today, the organization is comprised of more than 950 businesses, professionals, and individuals who are all focused on serving as a catalyst for business and community growth in Dothan. I am looking forward to many more years of continued success.

After the Chamber’s event, I stopped by Ready Mix USA in Dothan to tour the facility and catch up with leadership. This great company has plants in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and Florida. The Dothan Ready Mix facility employs 24 people, and I was glad to see their operation firsthand.

This April district work period was informative and productive thanks to the many individuals and businesses who hosted me and shared their thoughts about a wide range of issues facing our nation. I am looking forward to having many more of these interactions in the days and weeks to come. It is an honor to serve Alabama’s Second District in Congress, and I encourage you to reach out to my office if I can ever be of assistance.

U.S. Rep. Martha Roby is a Republican from Montgomery.

Byrne: Alabama the Beautiful

(B. Bryne/Facebook)

As the weather continues to warm and summer temperatures approach, I am reminded of the incredible natural beauty that lies here in Alabama.

For many schools throughout Southwest Alabama, April marked Spring Break for students and teachers, and so many families take advantage of that time to get out and enjoy the great outdoors throughout our state.

As a hunter and outdoorsman, I know the importance of managing our wildlife areas and natural resources – private, family-owned and public lands – to ensure they are around for our children and grandchildren to enjoy for decades to come. That is why I have once again joined the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus to protect and advance our national heritage of hunting, fishing, recreational shooting and trapping.

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As anyone who lives here knows, along the Gulf Coast we are blessed with an amazingly diverse and important ecosystem.

This week, I will be visiting the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge along the Fort Morgan Peninsula to celebrate the completion of a significant land conservation effort within the Little Point Clear Unit. Bon Secour is home to countless species and is a favorite outdoor spot for many Southwest Alabamians.

Just across Mobile Bay, I’ll also have the privilege of participating in the Lightning Point Restoration Project groundbreaking in Bayou La Batre, another successful coastal restoration project made possible by local leadership and public-private partnerships.

With miles of trails and plenty to do and see, I am committed to preserving these important resources and habitats for future generations.

Just here in our backyard of Southwest Alabama, we also have Gulf State Park, Meaher State Park, Fort Morgan, Fort Gaines, Frank Jackson State Park, dozens of walking trails, outdoor spaces and campgrounds.

It is up to us to take care of our area. Just a few weeks ago, Orange Beach was named the cleanest town in Alabama. What an accomplishment for Orange Beach residents!

It is also up to Congress to ensure that we take care of our natural resources as well. That is why I have continued to fight for just compensation in cases of natural disaster or human error.

The RESTORE (Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States) Act has provided funds for the cleanup from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill that greatly impacted our shores and communities. It is important that the entirety of those funds are distributed as intended to the impacted communities and that such a disaster is not repeated in the future.

Similarly, I am grateful to President Trump for maintaining the funding for the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA). This legislation provides for fair compensation to Alabama by creating revenue sharing provisions used for coastal conservation, restoration and hurricane protection.

Enjoying the beauty of mother nature along the coast also means having to recover when she turns violent.

We are unfortunately all too familiar with hurricanes and other violent storms in our area. Being prepared goes a long way to riding out the storm, but it is how we recover that defines the spirit of resilience that we have here in Alabama. When the worst does happen, I always fight to ensure that the people of Alabama have access to the necessary funds and resources to recover from those natural disasters.

I have lived my whole life in Alabama, and I believe we live in the most beautiful state in the country. Whenever I am out in nature with my kids and grandkids, hunting, fishing, or simply enjoying God’s creation, I understand why we call it “Alabama the Beautiful.”

This year, as the Spring turns into Summer, make sure you take time to enjoy nature and get out and enjoy our parks, history and everything Alabama has to offer.

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