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.

17 hours ago

Time-lapse video of Birmingham’s new downtown interstate bridges

(Phil Free/Alabama NewsCenter)

The new Interstate 59/20 bridges through downtown Birmingham are scheduled to open within the next few days, 12 months after they were closed for replacement.

The Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) announced Jan. 13 the contractor, Johnson Brothers Corp., would have the bridges completed and ready to open no later than Jan. 21. The interstate bridges were closed to traffic Jan. 21, 2019, as part of ALDOT’s phased repair plan for the more than 45-year-old bridges.

Alabama Power recorded the demolition and construction of the western half of the bridges from a 17th-floor window overlooking the junction of the bridges with I-65. The 12-month recording was condensed into a one-minute time-lapse video.

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Time-lapse video of Birmingham bridges replacement from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

A formal ribbon-cutting ceremony was scheduled for Friday, Jan. 17 at 2:00 p.m. Once the bridges reopen to traffic, ALDOT says crews will spend the rest of 2020 repairing detours and completing work around the bridges. Plans to develop public space underneath the bridges are not yet finalized.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

21 hours ago

State Sen. Steve Livingston sees opportunity to strengthen Alabama’s aerospace and defense industry

(Steve Livingston/Facebook, NASA/Contributed, YHN)

State Sen. Steve Livingston (R-Scottsboro) is looking to give Alabama’s aerospace and defense industry a boost.

Livingston is leading the formation of a new legislative group focused on the needs of an industry which generates billions for Alabama’s economy and is vital to national security.

In an interview with Yellowhammer News, he outlined that the Aerospace and Defense Caucus will be a bipartisan committee assembled to promote growth for the aerospace and defense industry in Alabama.

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The number of jobs and amount of resources at stake make this effort a high priority for legislators from across the state, according to Livingston.

“Aerospace and defense is a more than $16 billion business in Alabama,” he explained. “We have more than $4 billion in exports, as well. That’s a huge industry in Alabama, and it’s going to do nothing but continue to grow.”

He believes the time is right to step up the state’s support given the Trump administration’s interest in space exploration.

“We have an excellent opportunity to play a key role in what will be the Space Command that President Trump stood up for last year and that they are trying to find a home for,” noted Livingston.

Livingston’s North Alabama state senate district includes parts or all of Madison, Jackson and DeKalb Counties, and he has a keen understanding of how much his area has contributed to America’s space program.

“Huntsville and Madison County have always played a key role in everything we’ve done in space, and I think we’ll continue to do so,” he said.

Yet, he emphasized the statewide impact of the work the Aerospace and Defense Caucus will set out to do.

In addition to Huntsville and its surrounding areas, he cited Mobile, Auburn, Tuscaloosa, Montgomery and Pike County among the different communities in the state supporting the industry.

“It’s exciting to see what’s happening in Alabama,” remarked Livingston. “Look at what we’re doing. We sent man to the Moon out of Marshall Space Flight Center. And what happens at Redstone with our nation’s military defense systems. If a member of the military gets it, it comes through Huntsville. We’ve got aviation command there. We’ve got Ft. Rucker which trains all of our helicopter pilots, and Maxwell Air Force Base has the War College. Auburn and Alabama do avionics and autonomous vehicles in both locations. The University of South Alabama with Airbus and Austal in Mobile.”

One of the responsibilities he expects the caucus to assume is to work with members of Alabama’s congressional delegation on what are largely federal programs.

“We’ll work with everyone’s office in Washington,” advised Livingston. “This is a bipartisan committee.”

In particular, he recognized Sen. Richard Shelby’s (R-AL) leadership in building America’s space program.

“The truth of the matter is there’s no telling what Senator Shelby has meant to the aerospace and defense industry not only in Alabama but overall for the nation’s defense and space program,” Livingston stated.

RELATED: ‘From Alabama to the Moon’ — Richard Shelby is the driving force making America’s space dreams a reality

The Aerospace and Defense Caucus is set to meet for the first time on Wednesday when Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth calls the group to order. Livingston said that he received encouragement to start the caucus from Ainsworth, who currently serves as the national chairman of the Aerospace States Association, and members of the industry in Alabama.

Livingston believes it is beneficial to bundle aerospace and defense issues together for the caucus to consider. He called the two industries “interconnected” in the present day due to shared missions and technologies.

The nation saw evidence of this recently when President Donald Trump credited an early warning system with saving lives in Iraq. The system was made up of Lockheed Martin satellites carried into space by United Launch Alliance rockets. Both companies have significant manufacturing operations in Alabama.

RELATED: Trump — Satellites launched by Alabama rockets saved lives in Iraq

Upon announcing his intention to launch the caucus, Livingston said he received immediate feedback from 60 to 70 legislators who wanted to participate. He expects even more than that to ultimately join.

As for the type of issues the Aerospace and Defense Caucus seeks to tackle, Livingston has a few already in mind.

He said the state currently does not have any research and development assistance in its economic development plans.

“Primarily, one of the things that we could do would be provide some research and development credits that would help a company locate to Alabama.” Livingston offered.

Building off of the state’s workforce development successes is another priority for the committee, according to him.

When asked about the importance of two-year and four-year college programs specifically tailored for aerospace and defense, Livingston was quick to respond.

“Huge,” he called them. “There are already programs in place. The Alabama Cyber School that’s opening in Huntsville is already in place.”

He referenced the numerous programs supported by Gov. Kay Ivey to bolster the state’s aerospace and defense workforce. Livingston thinks there are even more programs that can be developed by the business and education communities.

“That’s just the tip of the iceberg,” he said.

RELATED: Ivey focused on continued growth for booming aerospace industry — ‘Alabama is an easy sell’

The ability to help small businesses who support the aerospace and defense industry may also be on the agenda for the caucus.

“There are a lot of smaller companies out there that do a lot of supply work for this industry in communities like Scottsboro and other places,” Livingston pointed out. “We have a small company in Skyline, Alabama, that has done some machining and tooling for NASA. They have a contract which grew out of a Mountain Lakes Chamber of Commerce initiative that was done a few years ago on how to do business with NASA.”

Feeling there is no shortage of ways to enhance the state’s position in space and defense, Livingston looks forward to working with his colleagues to move the industry forward.

“It’s exciting to see the future come to Alabama,” Livingston concluded.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

1 day ago

Alabama Music Hall of Fame celebrates 30th anniversary in 2020

(Alabama's Music Hall of Fame/Facebook, YHN)

The Alabama Music Hall of Fame (AMHOF) has been cataloging and putting on display the many pieces of Alabama’s musical history for 30 years.

“We have singers, songwriters, producers, musicians, all from the state of Alabama,” Sandra Burroughs, Executive Director of the Alabama Music Hall of Fame told WHNT.

“They were either born and raised here or moved here quickly afterwards or have a really strong tie to Alabama,” she added.

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The Hall is located on Highway 72 in Tuscumbia, a charming city in the northwest corner of Alabama. Nearby is the town of Muscle Shoals, a town with a musical history so rich it warranted its own documentary.

In addition to celebrating its 30th birthday, the Hall of Fame is hosting an induction banquet on January 25.

The Hall will be inducting Gary Baker, Mervyn Warren, Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton and Elton B. Stephens. The institution’s website describes the acts as, “two Grammy Award winners, a legendary blues singer and the philanthropist who spearheaded the revival of the Alabama Symphony Orchestra.”

Performing at the induction will be the Backstreet Boys, Taylor Hicks, Jamey Johnson, Bo Bice and Chris Thompkins. The Backstreet Boys are friends with Gary Baker and will be there to support his induction.

Also at the induction ceremony on January 25 will be the handing out of the first-ever AMHOF Advocacy Award, which will go to Mitchell Self. According to a detailed piece on the award in the Florence Times-Daily, Self was a legendary radio owner and promoter of the Muscle Shoals music scene. He died in 1990 after 20 years running WLAY in Muscle Shoals.

“As any family would be, we’re quite proud of the legacy he left,” Kevin Self, Mitchell’s son, said of his father.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

2 days ago

Dynetics’ Huntsville-assembled X-61A Gremlins Air Vehicle completes successful test flight

(Dynetics/YouTube)

Huntsville-based Dynetics announced on Friday that the company has successfully flown its X-61A Gremlins Air Vehicle (GAV) for the first time.

While this maiden test flight occurred in November, it was not made public until now.

Dynetics is the performer for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Gremlins program. Managed out of DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office, the overarching goal of Gremlins is to accelerate the ability to perform aerial launch and recovery of volley quantities of low-cost, reusable unmanned aerial systems (UASs).

According to a release, the test flight took place at Dugway Proving Ground near Salt Lake City, Utah. Testing operations reportedly involved one captive-carry mission aboard a TBM, Inc. C-130A and an airborne launch and free flight of the X-61A that lasted one hour and 41 minutes.

The test objectives included:

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  • Demonstrating a successful launch of the GAV from the C-130
  • Demonstrating a rate capture, wing deployment, cold engine start, and transition to stable, powered flight
  • Collecting data on GAV subsystem operation and performance
  • Verifying air and ground-based command and control systems, including data link performance and handovers between air and ground control
  • Deploying the GAV docking arm
  • Demonstrating the flight termination and ground (parachute) recovery of the GAV (demonstration system only – not part of the operational system)

According to Dynetics, the X-61A flew as predicted with no anomalies, achieving all test objectives that relate to the operational system. At the end of the mission, the engine was shut down and a drogue chute successfully deployed to terminate flight.

However, the vehicle was unfortunately lost during the ground recovery sequence due to a failure to extract the main chute.

The Dynetics team was one of four companies awarded Phase 1 for the Gremlins program in 2016. Phase 2 was awarded in March 2017 to two of those four performers, and Phase 3 followed in April 2018, naming Dynetics the top performer.

The November test flight was the next step toward the completion of the program’s Phase 3 demonstration objectives, which include a final flight test to demonstrate the ability to recover four GAVs in under 30 minutes.

“This flight marks a historic milestone for Dynetics and the Gremlins program,” stated Tim Keeter, Dynetics Gremlins program manager. “The GAV flew beautifully and our command and control system kept us in total control of the GAV for the entire flight. The loss of our vehicle validates our decision to build five GAVs for Phase 3; we still have four remaining. Overall, I am proud to see all the hard work pay off and we are excited to continue this momentum towards the first airborne recovery in early 2020.”

This test flight culminated an impressive 2019 for Dynetics’ Gremlins team. The year included a successful flight test of the docking system in February. In March, they then executed the first flight of the GAV avionics system, installed onboard the Calspan Variable Stability System (VSS) Lear Jet as a dress rehearsal for the November test. Dynetics also hosted a stakeholder’s day highlighting a live engine test in July and received a U.S. Air Force-assigned X-61A designation in August.

“This flight test validates all the engineering design work, analysis, and ground testing we have performed in the past two and a half years,” added Brandon Hiller, chief engineer for the X-61A. “We have a lot of confidence in the vehicle’s performance and overall design going forward, and the telemetry data from the flight compares exceptionally well to our modeling predictions. Our team has done a superb job to achieve first flight of this unique aircraft in such a short amount of time, and we are eager to get this new capability into the hands of the DoD.”

Footage of the flight test was also released on Friday and can be viewed below:

The X-61A was assembled in Huntsville.

Dynetics, which has been headquartered in the Rocket City since its founding in 1974, is a world-class applied research and national security solutions company, with large portfolios in the space and defense sectors. A 100% employee-owned company, Dynetics was recently purchased by Leidos for $1.65 billion in cash. The deal is expected to close this quarter.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 days ago

Sessions, Byrne continue to tangle with atheist group

(U.S. Representative Bradley Byrne/Facebook, Jeff Sessions/YouTube, YHN)

Two Republican Alabama Senate candidates continue to battle the out-of-state Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF), which describes itself as the nation’s largest association of atheists and agnostics.

Earlier this week, former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions joined in the defense of Notasulga’s Reeltown High School against the FFRF and detailed his long-running feud with the foundation. This came after Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01) had previously leapt to the defense of the school against the FFRF, which prompted the atheist group to publicly attack Byrne.

Now, the FFRF has responded similarly to Sessions’ intervention.

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In a press release reacting to Tuesday’s Yellowhammer News article detailing Sessions’ defense of Reeltown and opposition to the FFRF, the organization stated, “The Freedom From Religion Foundation is taking exception to inaccurately disparaging statements ex-Attorney General Jeff Sessions has made about the national state/church watchdog.”

The release referenced a letter the FFRF sent Sessions in response to his statements; that letter was released by Sessions’ campaign to Yellowhammer News and can be read here.

The letter, which was written by FFRF co-presidents Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker, seemingly mocks Sessions for polishing his “Christian persecution credentials.”

“Secularism in government is a precious founding American principle, and an American original at that,” the letter claims.

“Mr. Sessions, you’ve been monumentally wrong [on religious issues],” the letter later asserts, after bashing his time as attorney general for being pro-Christian.

The letter came the same day that the FFRF broadcast a television advertisement featuring Ron Reagan during the latest Democratic presidential primary debate.

Both Sessions and Byrne took issue with the FFRF ad.

Sessions released a statement responding to both the FFRF letter to him and the ad.

“Christians and people of all faiths are under attack in America,” Sessions decried. “Ron Reagan’s atheist group is spending millions of dollars attacking Christians in the name of religious liberty. I can promise you that we will not be intimidated by some leftists from Hollywood. My message to people of faith is this: ‘I HAVE YOUR BACK.’ I have spent my whole life fighting to make sure that Christians and people of all faiths can boldly live out their faiths. That is what religious liberty means.”

“The Constitution explicitly guarantees the right for every American to freely exercise their religious beliefs. They don’t have to ask the FFRF for permission,” he continued. “The FFRF were constant critics of me and our work at the Department of Justice to protect religious liberty, using unjustified and extreme arguments that have no basis in the Constitution.”

Sessions concluded, “This group, and others, continually write threatening letters to public institutions to frighten and intimidate them from allowing Constitutionally-protected expressions of faith. They have gotten away with it for too long. I will never back down from this fight.”

Byrne reacted to the FFRF ad in a tweet.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 days ago

Fishing at public lakes to begin in February

(Alabama Newscenter)

Alabama’s fishermen will be able to resume fishing on state-owned lakes beginning February 1, 2020, the Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries division announced on Friday.

The state of Alabama owns 23 lakes that it stocks with fish like bream, largemouth bass, channel catfish and crappie. For nominal fees, any interested angler can cast a line and enjoy a day on the lake. One of those lakes — Washington County Public Fishing Lake — will remain closed for all of 2020 while it is restocked.

“Alabama’s public fishing lakes are a great family fishing destination,” said Jonathan Brown, public fishing lake biologist for the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF)

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The operating costs of Alabama’s public fishing lakes do not come from the state’s general fund budget. The state’s anglers cover the cost through the paying of license fees, targeted taxes on outdoor equipment and fishing permits.

“Not only do the lakes offer great fishing, they have concession buildings with snacks, drinks, restrooms, and personnel who can provide fishing advice,” concluded Brown.

More information on where the public fishing lakes are, and how interested anglers can use them, can be found on the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ website.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

2 days ago

View your county’s sample ballot for Alabama’s March 3 primary election

(Pixabay, YHN)

Alabama Secretary of State John H. Merrill’s office has now released county-by-county sample ballots for the state’s upcoming March 3 primary election.

Major races to watch across all counties include the Democratic presidential primary, the Republican senatorial primary and Republican congressional primaries in AL-01 and AL-02.

Statewide, eligible Alabamians will also have the opportunity to cast their referendum vote on Amendment One, a proposed historic overhaul of educational governance in the Yellowhammer State.

You can view your sample ballot, broken down by county and political party, below or here:

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Autauga
Democrat
Republican
Baldwin
Democrat
Republican
Barbour
Democrat
Republican
Bibb
Democrat
Republican
Blount
Democrat
Republican
Bullock
Democrat
Republican
Butler
Democrat
Republican
Calhoun
Democrat
Republican
Chambers
Democrat
Republican
Cherokee
Democrat
Republican
Chilton
Democrat
Republican
Choctaw
Democrat
Republican
Clarke
Democrat
Republican
Clay
Democrat
Republican
Cleburne
Democrat
Republican
Coffee
Democrat
Republican
Colbert
Democrat
Republican
Conecuh
Democrat
Republican
Coosa
Democrat
Republican
Covington
Democrat
Republican
Crenshaw
Democrat
Republican
Cullman
Democrat
Republican
Dale
Democrat
Republican
Dallas
Democrat
Republican
DeKalb
Democrat
Republican
Elmore
Democrat
Republican
Escambia
Democrat
Republican
Etowah
Democrat
Republican
Fayette
Democrat
Republican
Franklin
Democrat
Republican
Geneva
Democrat
Republican
Greene
Democrat
Republican
Hale
Democrat
Republican
Henry
Democrat
Republican
Houston
Democrat
Republican
Jackson
Democrat
Republican
Jefferson
Democrat
Republican
Lamar
Democrat
Republican
Lauderdale
Democrat
Republican
Lawrence
Democrat
Republican
Lee
Democrat
Republican
Limestone
Democrat
Republican
Lowndes
Democrat
Republican
Macon
Democrat
Republican
Madison
Democrat
Republican
Marengo
Democrat
Republican
Marion
Democrat
Republican
Marshall
Democrat
Republican
Mobile
Democrat
Republican
Monroe
Democrat
Republican
Montgomery
Democrat
Republican
Morgan
Democrat
Republican
Perry
Democrat
Republican
Pickens
Democrat
Republican
Pike
Democrat
Republican
Randolph
Democrat
Republican
Russell
Democrat
Republican
St. Clair
Democrat
Republican
Shelby
Democrat
Republican
Sumter
Democrat
Republican
Talladega
Democrat
Republican
Tallapoosa
Democrat
Republican
Tuscaloosa
Democrat
Republican
Walker
Democrat
Republican
Washington
Democrat
Republican
Wilcox
Democrat
Republican
Winston
Democrat
Republican

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 days ago

Poll: Coleman could win AL-02 GOP primary without runoff

(Jeff Coleman for Congress, Troy King for Congress, Jessica Taylor/Facebook, Henry Otto/Flickr, YHN)

New polling obtained Friday morning by Yellowhammer News shows a potential blowout on the horizon in the March 3 Republican primary to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Martha Roby (AL-02).

We Ask America, a national polling firm based in Illinois, conducted a survey January 14-15 of 600 likely GOP primary voters. The margin of error was ±3.99%. Of the responses, 240 were recorded via cell phone text message, while 360 were conducted via automated landline calls.

The survey measured the popularity of President Donald J. Trump among the Second Congressional District’s Republicans, as well as the favorability ratings and ballot test (when voters are asked who they would vote for if the primary were held today) in the congressional primary race.

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On the ballot test, a whopping 43% chose Wiregrass businessman Jeff Coleman. Next came former Alabama Attorney General Troy King at 16%, followed by former State Rep. Barry Moore (R-Enterprise) at 8% and Prattville businesswoman Jessica Taylor at 5%. Finally, 25% were undecided and a total of about 4% chose lesser known candidates.

When respondents were asked if they had a favorable or unfavorable opinion about each candidate, Coleman again rose above the rest. The results showed 57% answered favorable, compared to just 9% unfavorable. Of the respondents, 33% had no opinion (which could include having never heard of the candidate). It should be noted that 30% specified they view Coleman “very” favorably as opposed to 27% choosing “somewhat” favorably; 5% marked very unfavorable compared to 4% somewhat unfavorable.

King and Moore seemed to have relatively similar name identification levels as Coleman, just with lower favorability.

For King, 46% responded favorable (13% very, 33% somewhat) and 23% answered unfavorable (14% very, 9% somewhat), while 31% had no opinion.

When it came to Moore, 39% viewed him favorably (13% very, 26% somewhat) and 23% chose unfavorable (15% very, 8% somewhat), while 39% had no opinion.

Taylor, a first time candidate who has spent little money in the race, trailed when it came to name identification, which also explains her fourth place position on the ballot test. For Taylor, 22% of respondents marked favorable (7% very, 15% somewhat) compared to 13% unfavorable (9% very, 4% somewhat), while 65% had no opinion.

Coleman, also a newcomer to running for political office, has had success raising money in the race while also investing personal funds into the campaign. He has been advertising on television, radio, digital and billboards, and his campaign’s strategy appears to be paying off. The We Ask America polling comes on the heels of a new internal poll which also showed Coleman with a major lead.

Additionally, the We Ask America polling asked respondents who their second choice would be on the ballot test if they could not vote for their first choice. For that question, Moore performed best, garnering 19%, followed by King at 18%, Coleman at 17% and Taylor at 7%, while 34% were undecided.

On a weighted combined ballot, factoring in both the first choice and second choice questions, that would mean Coleman came in at 53%, with King at 26%, Moore at 20% and Taylor at 9%.

Finally, 76% of respondents stated that they strongly approve of Trump’s job approval, 14% somewhat approve, 6% strongly disapprove and 2% somewhat disapprove.

You can view the poll toplines here and crosstabs here.

We Ask America also released a polling memo to Yellowhammer News featuring their main takeaways about the survey.

One bullet point stated, “Jeff Coleman has a massive lead and could avoid a runoff. Riding his impressive image with likely Republican primary voters, Coleman receives 43% of the vote, 27-points higher than his next closest opponent, Troy King, who sits at 16%. Barry Moore at 8% and Jessica Taylor at 5% come in a distant third and fourth, respectively. While 25% of voters remain undecided, Coleman is best positioned to capture a large portion of that vote. 22% have a favorable opinion of Coleman versus 12% having an unfavorable opinion (net +10). If Coleman can convince just a quarter of those undecided voters to vote for him, he should win outright and avoid a runoff.”

“If Coleman fails to clinch outright, Barry Moore could sneak past Troy King for second place. While King leads Moore by 8% overall (16%- 8%), Moore is better positioned to capture some of the remaining undecided voters. Of the 25% who say they are undecided, Moore has an image of net +7% (22% Fav/17% Unfav), while King is underwater at net -2% (24% Fav/26% Unfav). While it ultimately won’t matter if Coleman eclipses 50%, the race for second should be a close one,” the memo continued.

The final point read, “In a runoff, Jeff Coleman will still be the overwhelming favorite. If Coleman is forced into a runoff, he is well positioned to immediately capture the votes of those who failed to advance. 53% of voters list Coleman among their top two choices, while the next highest is Troy King at just 26%. Additionally, 31% of King voters and 27% of Moore voters choose Coleman as their second choice, higher than any other candidate.”

Fundraising disclosures for the fourth quarter of 2019 are due on January 31. Those FEC reports should indicate which, if any, candidate(s) will have the funds to force and make a runoff with Coleman.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 days ago

Rep. Sewell endorses Joe Biden for president

(Rep. Terri Sewell, Joe Biden/Facebook, YHN)

U.S. Representative Terri Sewell (D-Birmingham) endorsed Joe Biden for president on Friday.

The endorsement continues Biden’s dominance of support from Alabama’s most prominent Democrats. The former vice president received Senator Doug Jones’ support in April and Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin’s in December.

The representative for Alabama’s Seventh Congressional District, now in her fifth term in Congress, told the Associated Press, “Joe has a special combination of vast experience, respectability and authenticity that is well-received by Republicans and Democrats and globally by our allies and foes.”

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Sewell argued that President Donald Trump “has given people a license to be racist, sexist, misogynistic — out loud.”

When asked by the AP about the timing of her endorsement so close to Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Sewell said, “The No. 1 threat to my district is Donald Trump. The No. 1 threat to Martin Luther King’s legacy is Donald Trump.”

Black voters make up more than 50% of the electorate in Alabama’s Democratic primary and more than 60% of the voters in Sewell’s district. According to a recent national poll, 48% of black voters in America are supporting Biden in the ongoing Democratic primary.

Sewell is the 11th member of the Congressional Black Caucus to endorse Biden, and she will campaign with him in South Carolina ahead of that state’s primary on February 29.

“My district longs for a normality and stability again, and they know Joe Biden. He is a well-worn shoe we are comfortable with and who we know will fight for our values,” Sewell added.

Alabama’s Democratic primary will be held on March 3.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

2 days ago

Condoleezza Rice: Tech companies, startups can find success in Alabama

(Contributed)

Dr. Condoleezza Rice, the Birmingham native and former U.S. Secretary of State, recently met with members of Alabama’s startup and technology community to share her experiences as well as to discuss opportunities and challenges facing the state’s emerging innovation sector.

With vast experience in the technology sector, Rice currently serves on the board of Dropbox and has served on the board of the Hewlett-Packard Company. Since 2009, Rice has served as a founding partner at RiceHadleyGates, LLC, an international strategic consulting firm based in Silicon Valley and Washington, D.C. The firm works with senior executives of major companies to implement strategic plans and expand in emerging markets.

Entrepreneurs, university representatives, investors, business owners and technology and innovation leaders from across the Yellowhammer State gathered at a luncheon with Rice for an open discussion about how Alabama can better position itself for success in the 21st century economy.

According to a release, Miller Girvin, CEO of Alabama Capital Network, moderated the conversation with Rice and facilitated a discussion with attendees on important issues such as workforce development, venture capital investments, partnerships, job growth and state policies.

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“This was an opportunity for investors and supporters to meet with Dr. Rice and share stories of success, challenges and ideas for growing Alabama’s entrepreneurial sector,” Girvin stated. “People are starting to notice the momentum in our state, and I hope this event will further incite both conversation and action around the future of Alabama’s innovation economy.”

During the event, Rice reportedly commended the Alabama Incentives Modernization (AIM) Act. This legislation, sponsored by State Rep. Bill Poole (R-Tuscaloosa), was passed during the 2019 regular session and sets forth new incentives to attract tech companies in all corners of the state. Rice encouraged leaders to continue discussing policies, initiatives and collaborations that will spark job growth in this modern sector.

The AIM Act was also a featured topic during the Alabama Economic Growth Summit in recent months, when Poole and Girvin both sat on a panel and discussed potential growth for Alabama’s innovation sector.

Zeke Smith, Alabama Power Company’s executive vice president for external affairs, was on a separate panel during the summit that also discussed the AIM Act.

In a statement following the event with Rice, Smith said, “The passage of the AIM Act was a positive step forward in prioritizing Alabama’s entrepreneurial and technology ecosystem. We know that for Alabama to remain competitive in a growing technology-based economy, we need to develop additional policies that support future growth.”

“These forward-thinking policies will play an important role in driving our economy forward and inspiring the next generation of innovators,” he concluded.

At the event, Rice also reportedly spoke about how Alabama is a place where startups can be successful; she further advised attendees regarding the opportunity for the state and local leaders to capitalize on this. Additionally, Rice discussed her experience in Silicon Valley and shared how she is encouraged by the intentional collaboration, partnerships and celebrated successes among Alabama’s entrepreneurs, universities, research institutions, large companies and the public sector.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 days ago

City of Montgomery wins two international awards for technology, innovation

(Contributed)

Alabama’s capital city is becoming renowned across the globe for utilizing technology and innovation to revolutionize public safety and urban infrastructure operations.

US Ignite and Smart Cities Connect this week named the City of Montgomery a winner in two 2020 Smart 50 Awards categories: urban infrastructure and digital transformation.

Montgomery’s STAR Watch program and LED lighting rollout were the winning projects honored.

In a statement, Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed said, “Montgomery’s recognition on the world stage and our success in harnessing technology and innovation provide a solid foundation to work toward our vision of a city ready to lead in the knowledge-based economy.”

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“Our goal is to continue investing in innovative solutions that can cultivate an equitable city and result in quality-of-life transformations touching everything from public safety and thriving neighborhoods to education,” he added.

STAR Watch is the Montgomery Police Department’s new police-community technology initiative built around a real-time crime center comprising camera feeds across the city. The River Region Strategic Technology and Resource Center (STAR), a state-of-the-art MPD facility, uses feeds from cameras of voluntarily enrolled residents and businesses across Montgomery as a force-multiplier to increase overall public safety.

Montgomery’s LED lighting initiative was made possible through a partnership with Alabama Power Company. The company upgraded more than 22,000 streetlights from mercury vapor, metal halide and high pressure sodium bulbs into new energy-efficient LED systems. City officials anticipate saving approximately $600,000 in energy costs (thus taxpayer monies) over the next five years. LED bulbs also burn brighter and illuminate a larger area, resulting in fewer dark spots on the road, which means safer neighborhoods and roadways. Read more about the initiative here.

Montgomery will join fellow award-wining cities, including mega high-tech hubs like Chicago, London and Beijing, at an awards ceremony on April 6 in Denver.

This year’s ceremony will mark the second consecutive year that Montgomery has been recognized by Ignite and Smart Cities Connect. The “Capital of Dreams” received two awards last year for its achievements in mobility and urban operations.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 days ago

After vowing not to politicize impeachment, Doug Jones now fundraising off of Trump trial

(White House/Flickr, APTV/YouTube, YHN)

Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) has decried the political nature of the impeachment process for months. However, on Thursday, Jones began fundraising for his 2020 reelection campaign off of President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate.

In an email sent out by his official campaign, the Doug Jones for Senate Committee, Jones himself writes, “I believe this is one of the more important emails I will send.”

“Many of you have asked me for my thoughts as the trial progresses. I am going to try to give periodic video updates about my thoughts on the day’s proceedings without spin or any political campaigning,” Jones said. “Many have also asked what this means for my re-election campaign. This trial will have my full and complete attention. Remember, while I am doing my duty the candidates seeking the nomination against me are going to stay on the attack.”

Jones then solicited the email recipients to donate to his Senate reelection campaign “now.”

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“I can’t tell you how important your help will be over the next few weeks,” he added. “While I likely won’t be doing fundraising events or campaigning myself, Joe Trippi, Doug Turner, and my campaign team will keep you updated and make appeals for your help when it’s needed. If you are able, I need you to have my back and help when they ask.”

(Screenshot)

The Jones campaign has even created a unique fundraising page about impeachment that the email directs people to.

“While Doug is doing his duty, we’ve got to have his back,” the page states. “His opponents are taking every opportunity to divide and attack, but Doug is focused on impartial justice and real leadership.”

“Impartial justice” is a phrase that Jones and his campaign appear to be utilizing frequently now regarding impeachment trial. Both his campaign and his official U.S. Senate office tweeted out clips from the same Thursday interview with CNN.

The fundraising email comes on the heels of Jones in a recent Fox News interview admitting he is “not trying to necessarily please anyone” with his conduct during the impeachment trial, including his constituents.

That remark may very well remind Alabamians of his infamous line during the Kavanaugh confirmation process when Jones declared that representing the majority of his constituents is not “the be all to end all.” Jones ultimately voted against the confirmation.

In the first three quarters of 2019, Jones respectively received 88%, 88% and 77% of his individual campaign contributions from donors outside of Alabama. Full Q4 reports are not due until January 31. However, Jones’ campaign already announced that he raised approximately $1.9 million total in the last quarter.

RELATED: Schumer deputy fundraising for Doug Jones

In Q4 of 2018, Jones actually raised more from overseas alone than Alabama.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 days ago

Ivey announces $7M in road projects funded by new gas tax money

(Governor's Office/Hal Yeager)

Governor Kay Ivey and the Alabama Department of Transportation announced 31 road and bridge projects on Thursday that would be receiving grants from the state.

Together, the 31 grants are worth $7 million. The money for the projects comes from the Annual Grant Program, a new pool of funds established under the Rebuild Alabama Act that is intended for local projects municipalities/counties cannot pay for on their own. The Annual Grant Program is a small portion of the overall revenue generated by Rebuild Alabama.

The Rebuild Alabama Act is the name of the bill championed by Ivey that the Alabama legislature overwhelmingly passed in the spring of 2019. The act raises the gas tax in Alabama by ten cents over three years in order to pay for infrastructure projects like roads and bridges. A six-cent increase to the gas tax happened in September 2019, with a two-cent increase to follow in 2020 and 2021.

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“An investment in our roads and bridges is an investment in the future of Alabama. These $7 million in funds will go a long way in helping communities across the state address various road and bridge projects,” Ivey said.

The Annual Grant Program is composed of $10 million each year. The remaining $3 million will be awarded later in 2020. According to the governor’s office, “all projects will be under contract by the end of the calendar year, after bids are taken.”

“I am proud to see the continuing positive ramifications from the Rebuild Alabama Act. Soon, every Alabama citizen will feel the benefits from this additional investment in our infrastructure,” Ivey concluded.

For the approved projects, click here.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

2 days ago

Breast Cancer Research Foundation of Alabama gives $1.05 million to UAB cancer center

(UAB/Contributed)

The Breast Cancer Research Foundation of Alabama (BCRFA) is donating over a million dollars to the University of Alabama in Birmingham’s O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center, the two groups announced jointly on Wednesday.

The BCRFA makes an annual gift to the O’Neal Center, and 2020’s donation is the largest yet. The group has given the center $9.7 million since 1996.

“As a breast cancer survivor myself, I look at this as lifesaving work. I personally know how critical research is in finding new treatments,” said Jill Carter, president of the BCRFA Board of Directors.

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UAB says the funds from BCRFA have gone to projects like “developing novel immunotherapeutic and metabolic approaches, identifying new drug targets, and developing more effective models for breast cancer survivorship.”

BCRFA raises its funds through events like the Pink Ribbon Project in which 33 Alabama fire departments participated. They are also successful in selling specialty car tags, the money from which made up about 50% of Thursday’s donations.

https://www.bcrfa.org/license-plate.php
(BCRFA) (An example of the license plates sold at DMVs and Courthouses across Alabama)

BCRFA also has many partners from the private sector including Tameron Automotive, the Thompson Family Foundation, Sirote & Permutt, the Alabama Power Foundation, Renasant Bank, Wind Creek Wetumpka, Protective Life Foundation, Thrivent Financial, Spectrum Reach and iHeart Media.

“We are extremely grateful for the generous efforts of the BCRFA and the community at large that works so diligently throughout the year with the sole purpose of supporting promising breast cancer research,” said Barry Sleckman, M.D., Ph.D., the director of the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

3 days ago

Legislation introduced to protect Alabama’s critical infrastructure, such as its energy grid

(State Representative Chip Brown District 105, Cam Ward/Facebook)

State Sen. Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) and State Rep. Chip Brown (R-Mobile) on Thursday announced the filing of important legislation to bolster the protections of critical infrastructure assets in Alabama.

Companion bills filed in each chamber, Senate Bill 45 and House Bill 36 respectively, aim to amend a 2016 law which defined critical infrastructure in Alabama and created criminal penalties for unauthorized trespassing on such property.

The legislation filed Thursday adapts language from a variety of other states’ laws and adds the unauthorized use of unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) to the trespassing statute which is a Class A misdemeanor. The legislation also imposes a Class C Felony for individuals who “injure, remove, destroy, break or otherwise interrupt or interfere with the operations of a critical infrastructure asset” during the commission of unauthorized entry.

“This legislation is an important step in enhancing a bill I sponsored and passed in 2016,” Ward said in a statement.

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Ward is the chairman of the Alabama legislature’s Committee on Energy Policy.

“Critical infrastructure assets are the backbone of our quality of life in America and we must do everything we can to have the proper legal protections in place,” he continued. “Damaging critical infrastructure is a serious offense which can lead to significant safety and environmental hazards as well as disrupt economic activity across the state, region and even the entire country. With this legislation, we will ensure we continue to provide the necessary protections for our domestic energy security in Alabama. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate on this important issue.”

Brown reinforced the importance of the legislation.

“Alabama is blessed to be the home of a variety of critical infrastructure assets across the state,” he stated. “Not only do these assets provide jobs to Alabamians, but they also support our day-to-day lives with the resources we often take for granted.”

“We must continue to be vigilant with our efforts to combat any potential threats to our critical infrastructure both domestically and abroad and that is why I am pleased to sponsor this legislation. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House to ensure we are leading the way towards protecting one of the very pillars of our society – our critical infrastructure,” Brown concluded.

Reaction comes in from stakeholders

The legislation authored by Ward and Brown was met with immediate and effusive praise from industry leaders.

Seth Hammett, chairman of the Energy Institute of Alabama, remarked, “The Energy Institute of Alabama commends Senator Ward and Representative Brown for taking the proactive measure to ensure Alabama’s critical infrastructure assets are protected. In times of uncertainty, domestically and abroad, measures like this legislation are a welcome sign from our political leaders who are taking a proactive and logical approach to ensure our domestic energy security.”

“Manufacture Alabama is thankful for the leadership of Senator Ward and Representative Brown in sponsoring this vital piece of legislation,” Manufacture Alabama president and CEO George Clark said. “Protecting the state’s critical infrastructure is extremely important to not only our members, but the people of Alabama. This bill will further provide law enforcement and the Judicial Branch the tools that it will need to deter individuals bent on destroying private property and disrupting the flow of energy.”

“We applaud Senator Ward and Representative Brown for their commitment to protecting our state’s critical infrastructure. Pipelines and other oil and gas infrastructure are instrumental in delivering clean, affordable and reliable energy to Alabama’s working families, and this bill provides an important mechanism to deter those who would hope to interrupt our state’s flow of energy and create a potential safety risk to communities, first responders, and the environment,” Alabama Petroleum Council executive director Jon Barganier commented.

The Alabama legislature will gavel in for its 2020 regular session on February 4.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 days ago

Watch it here first: Jeff Sessions releases latest TV ad — ‘I won’t back down’

(Sessions for Senate/YouTube)

Yellowhammer News on Thursday obtained the latest television advertisement for former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ 2020 U.S. Senate campaign.

Sessions is running in a crowded Republican primary field to reclaim his former Alabama Senate seat, the one currently held by Senator Doug Jones (D-AL).

The new ad is entitled “Won’t Back Down” and contrasts Sessions’ record and conservative principles with far-left policies being pushed by prominent Democrats across the country.

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The ad will start running as soon as Friday. The television buy will cover all major markets in Alabama and run for two weeks.

The ad begins with a narrator saying, “Socialism. Open borders. Free healthcare for illegal immigrants. That’s the Democrats’ plan for America. And they plan to gut our religious freedom and our freedom of speech. These radicals always blame America First.”

Sessions then speaks directly into the camera, commenting, “Today’s Democrats want to redefine America, and they mean business. They don’t want me in the Senate, because they know I won’t back down.”

“Jeff Sessions, the man the Democrats fear, the conservative you can trust,” the narrator concludes.

Watch:

In a statement, Sessions campaign manager Jon Jones remarked, “Jeff Sessions is a nightmare for the left-wing socialists who run the national Democratic Party. Not only does his entrance into this race make it likely that Alabama will once again be represented by Republicans in the U.S. Senate, but the Democrats also know that Sessions will relentlessly fight for conservative principles and the implementation of President Trump’s agenda. Senator Doug Jones’ days in the U.S. Senate are numbered. Every day, the momentum generated by Mr. Sessions as he travels the state is building.”

Sessions is competing in the March 3 GOP primary with former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville, Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01), former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore and State Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs).

RELATED: Trump tax cuts architect: Trump probably would not be president without Jeff Sessions

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 days ago

Watch: Ride inside Boeing’s Starliner on its historic journey to space and back

(NASA)

Boeing provided never-seen-before views of space flight when it released video footage from inside its Starliner capsule. Cameras inside the cabin carry viewers from launch to touchdown.

Designed in Huntsville, and delivered into space by an Atlas V rocket built by United Launch Alliance (ULA) in Decatur, Starliner became the first American orbital space capsule to land on U.S. soil when it touched down at the U.S. Army’s White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico on December 22. Previous American human-rated space capsules had landed in the ocean.

Watch:

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The video shows two special participants inside the cabin on this uncrewed test flight. One was “Snoopy,” the tethered gravity indicator sitting in the pilot’s seat. Rosie the Rocketeer, a sensor-laden test dummy, was also along for the ride. Rosie helped provide data on numerous aspects of the flight, including force measurement at launch and landing.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

3 days ago

Historic USMCA approved by Senate with support of Shelby, Jones

(Wikicommons)

President Donald Trump’s historic United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) was approved overwhelmingly by the U.S. Senate on Thursday, with both Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) voting to support the trade deal.

The implementation act for the USMCA passed the Senate 89-10.

The trade deal, which is set to replace NAFTA, has been praised by major industries in Alabama, including agriculture and manufacturing.

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The U.S. House already approved the agreement, which will now advance to Trump’s desk for his signature. Alabama’s entire federal delegation ended up supporting the USMCA.

“Passage of this important trade pact is a significant win for our state and nation’s farmers, manufacturers, workers, and businesses,” Shelby said in a statement.

“The agreement not only improves our trade policies, but it also counteracts many of the negative effects of NAFTA. I commend President Trump on this legislative victory and look forward to the job creation and robust economic growth that will result from implementing USMCA,” he continued.

In 2018, Alabama exported $6.6 billion in services and commodities to Canada and Mexico. The USMCA is expected to continue boosting trade throughout the Yellowhammer State and the nation while serving the interests of Alabama’s workers and job creators. It will also support mutually beneficial trade leading to free markets, fair trade and continued economic growth in North America, according to Shelby’s office.

The vote by the full Senate on Thursday came after the Senate Appropriations Committee, of which Shelby serves as chairman and Jones serves as a member, advanced the agreement the day prior by a vote of 29-2.

After that committee vote, Jones stated, “I have consistently supported the idea of a new strategic trade agreement with Mexico and Canada, especially as businesses and markets are desperately seeking stability and reassurance due to the numerous global trade disputes the United States has entered over the past few years. Canada and Mexico are Alabama’s top trade partners and we are an exporting state, so this deal will provide much-needed stability and continued access to those markets that will benefit many industries in Alabama.”

“I hope once the agreement is signed in to law, we will work with other allies around the globe and remove the threat of tariffs on our farmers and automakers once and for all,” Jones concluded.

Shelby stated, “The President is dedicated to improving our nation’s trade policies and benefiting hardworking American taxpayers. I look forward to the future job creation and investment this pact will foster.”

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 days ago

Applications now open to Alabama School of Cyber Technology and Engineering

(Alabama School of Cyber Technology and Engineering/Twitter, Pixabay, YHN)

The Alabama School of Cyber Technology and Engineering (ASCTE) is now accepting applications, the school announced on Twitter Thursday morning.

ASCTE will be a boarding high school where students interested in Cyber Technology and Engineering will live on campus and focus their studies on cyber and engineering courses of study. Eighth graders from across Alabama can apply for about 100 spots in the school’s inaugural class.

The school will be held at the campus of Oakwood University in Huntsville for 2020 and 2021 before moving to its a permanent campus on Cummings Research Park. That new campus is expected to be fully constructed by 2022. The enrollment will increase each year, with a target of 3oo students after four years.

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According to ASCTE’s website, the school “will serve 9th Graders in its first year, adding a grade level each year, with the goal of becoming a 9th-12th grade high school.”

The application process specifies, “Students local to Huntsville will commute daily, while the school will provide residential housing for students living outside of the Huntsville area.”

The school will be led by Matt Massey, a former superintendent of the Madison County School System.

Similar to the Alabama School of Fine Arts in Birmingham and the Alabama School for Math and Science in Mobile, Alabama students will pay no tuition at ASCTE.

Students will be required to produce the following:

  • Copy of transcripts
  • Most recent copy of standardized test scores
  • Letter of recommendation from a teacher
  • Letter of recommendation from a school administrator
  • Letter of recommendation from parent(s)
  • Letter of interest from the student
  • Current photo of the student applicant
  • Copy of Cumulative Disciplinary Record
  • Copy of attendance report for the 2018-2019, 2019-2020 school year

Interested applicants can go here.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

3 days ago

State Sen. Chambliss: ‘Do or die time now’ on prisons — Warns Feds could take over if solution not offered ‘first part of this year’

(Screenshot/APTV)

For nearly a year, Alabama has been under the threat of action by the Department of Justice regarding shortfalls in its prison system, particularly regarding potential violations of the Eighth Amendment, as laid out in a letter to state policymakers in 2019.

According to State Sen. Clyde Chambliss (R-Prattville), the clock is ticking for the state of Alabama to act.

During an appearance on Huntsville radio WVNN’s “The Jeff Poor Show,” the Autauga County lawmaker said he anticipated the early part of the 2020 legislative session to be “dominated” by the issue.

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“I expect the first part of the session to be pretty heavily dominated by the prison discussion,” Chambliss said. “It is my opinion that if we don’t — ‘we’ being the executive and legislative branch — if we don’t solve it the first part of this year in the session, then it will be out of our hands beyond that and the cost will double or triple for what we could solve it for if the federal government makes the decisions — the federal courts.”

When asked if he thought the federal government was ready to act this year, Chambliss confirmed that belief and said it was his view that it was indeed “do or die time.”

“I think so,” he replied. “They have been very patient with us. They have been understanding. They have seen the things we have tried to do with [Department of Corrections] personnel, the classifications that we have, the increase in pay that we’ve added. We’ve taken several steps, and they’ve been patient with us, and I’ve been very pleased with that. But I believe — and again, this is my opinion — that it is do or die time now. If we don’t finish the work this session, then they’ll take it from there if we don’t.”

Chambliss also said he was open to the possibility of leading off the 2020 general session with a special session, similar to the legislature’s 2019 passage of the Rebuild Alabama Act.

“I like the idea of a special at the beginning of a regular session,” Chambliss said. “What that does is it puts all eyes on one subject, instead of jockeying for position, jockeying for time. It really brings the spotlight on one particular issue, and this issue is big enough and important enough to our state. Yes, I would favor doing a special within the regular.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV and host of “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN in Huntsville.

3 days ago

Ala. House Minority Leader Daniels: Poarch Creek compact proposal is ‘appealing’

(Anthony Daniels/Twitter, YHN)

In a television interview this week, Alabama House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels (D-Huntsville) discussed the historic compact with the state proposed by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians (PCI).

PCI, based in Atmore, is the only federally recognized tribe in the Yellowhammer State.

In late 2019, the tribe unveiled a compact plan that could pay billions to the state and rolled out “Winning for Alabama,” a public awareness campaign related to the proposal.

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Speaking to WHNT, Daniels seemed open to the plan, which also expresses PCI’s continued support for a clean, traditional lottery in the state.

When asked about what he thinks about the proposal, Daniels responded, “Well, Alabama is certainly a state that needs more revenue, and our constituencies are not in favor of any more taxes – whether it’s a property tax or whatever it is – and so it’s appealing to me, but in all fairness, they’ve brought an offer to the table and we have to look at that very seriously.”

Daniels then added that he expects “other operators” of gaming in the state to bring their own proposal forward.

“But understand that also there are other operators in the state that will also be — moving forward will bring a proposal to the table,” he said. “But right now there’s only been one proposal made public, and so when you see that you have to look at that. Because at the end of the day, it is about generating more revenue. I think that the plan that you described (the PCI plan), that’s no secret. I think that it’s certainly appealing to the legislature when we’re talking about more revenue and more dollars.”

State Sen. Greg Albritton (R-Atmore) sponsored a clean lottery bill that passed the State Senate last spring but was defeated in the lower chamber. Albritton had estimated annual revenues for the state through his legislation at approximately $170 million. Daniels voted against Albritton’s lottery legislation advancing.

Speaking to WHNT, Daniels continued, “But I think, on your point about the lottery, Democrats have always been in support of an education lottery. I think that when we start having these conversations, we have to make certain that we’re talking about it in more details. When we’re talking about an education lottery, and I think that’s what the people of Alabama want as well, and so right now we’re not receiving any revenue for the General Fund or the Education Trust Fund from gaming, so it’s always appealing. But that’s just a starting point.”

It should be noted that Albritton’s lottery bill as considered by the House last year would have split revenues 75% to the General Fund and 25% to the Education Trust Fund.

After the bill failed in the House in 2019, State Rep. Terri Collins (R-Decatur) told Yellowhammer News that she intended to bring an amendment to the lottery legislation to make the revenue be split equally between education and the General Fund.

However, Daniels at the time then told Yellowhammer News that merely giving more of the revenue to the Education Trust Fund would not win over his party’s votes, saying their opposition was “much broader than that.”

House Democratic Caucus leaders subsequently called for lottery revenues to be earmarked, expressing specific concern that un-earmarked General Fund lottery revenues could go towards the construction of new prisons in the state.

Later in his interview with WHNT this week, Daniels specified that potentially being able to pay for Medicaid expansion and increased investments in Pre-k education makes the PCI compact proposal especially “appealing.”

He also acknowledged that there are members of the legislature that represent “places where there are some [gaming] operators that said that they want to make certain that their operators get their voices heard as well.”

Daniels may very well be referring to operators of electronic bingo halls across the state. Electronic bingo and similar “slot machine” type games have been deemed as illegal gaming by the Alabama Supreme Court under current law.

“[O]nce we see a proposal from those operators, I think at that point we can start moving forward,” Daniels added.

Daniels subsequently singled out the licensing fees in the PCI proposal as being especially “appealing,” due to that revenue being consistent and not determined by the level of gaming occurring in the relevant facilities.

The 2020 regular session of the Alabama legislature gavels on February 4.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 days ago

Byrne: Hunter Biden should be ‘very first name’ on impeachment trial witness list

(Congressman Byrne/YouTube)

Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01) on Wednesday took to the U.S. House of Representatives floor, implying Democrats will regret demanding that Senate Republicans bring in more witnesses for President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial than the House interviewed during its impeachment inquiry.

While speaking on the floor, Byrne stood next to a poster showing a picture of former Vice President Joe Biden, Hunter Biden and Devon Archer on a golf outing.

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Archer served as a board member along with Hunter Biden at Burisma, a Ukraine energy company. Trump’s interactions with the Ukrainian president regarding potential wrongdoing by the Bidens related to Hunter’s foreign business dealings in the country are at the center of the impeachment case.

Democrats, including Senator Doug Jones (D-AL), have been calling on Senate Republicans in the majority to hold an impeachment trial featuring witnesses not heard from by the House. Jones in an op-ed recently named names he wants to hear from and has especially harped on the importance of former Trump administration National Security Advisor John Bolton testifying.

Jones stated, “The evidence we do have may be sufficient to make a judgment, but it is clearly incomplete.”

“There are four witnesses who could help fill those gaps: the president’s former national security adviser, his acting chief of staff, the senior adviser to his acting chief of staff and a top national security official in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Each has direct knowledge regarding the charges against the president and should testify under oath at a Senate trial,” he added.

However, Jones has supported the original impeachment whistleblower remaining secret and not having to testify in the Senate. The whistleblower did not testify in the House process.

RELATED: Jones doubles down on keeping whistleblower secret: ‘People’s lives could be in jeopardy’

Additionally, while Jones has maintained in recent months that the Bidens do not need to be investigated for Hunter’s foreign business dealings, Byrne has consistently called for increased scrutiny on the Biden family. Byrne even recently introduced a House resolution directing three House committees to begin investigating Hunter Biden’s business dealings during his father’s tenure as vice president.

That trend continued in Byrne’s Wednesday floor speech.

“After a long, embarrassing month, the House will finally transmit the articles of impeachment against President Trump to the United States Senate,” Byrne remarked. “Yet, I understand Speaker Pelosi and her managers will continue to push for witnesses in the Senate trial because, in their words, they want the facts.”

Referencing the poster, he continued, “That claim is nonsense! House Democrats blocked the testimony of the whistleblower, DNC staffer Alexandra Chalupa, Nellie Ohr with Fusion GPS, and of course the two gentlemen pictured to my left, Devon Archer and Hunter Biden!”

“I remind my friends in the majority, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. I predict House Democrats will not fare as well blocking these witnesses in Mitch McConnell’s Senate,” Byrne added.

In a statement to Yellowhammer News later in the day, Byrne emphasized that if Democrats want more witnesses during the Senate impeachment trial, Republicans should oblige by calling Hunter Biden to the stand.

“If Democrats are going to demand all these witnesses, then Republicans should do the same and the very first name on the list should be Hunter Biden,” Byrne said.

“Democrats have manufactured this entire conspiracy to overturn the results of the 2016 election, but they ignore the blatant corruption with the Biden family. If they want answers, let’s start with Hunter Biden,” he concluded.

Byrne is running in Alabama’s crowded GOP Senate primary field. Along with former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville, former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore and State Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs), Byrne is vying to face Jones in the November general election.

Jones has endorsed Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign, defending him at controversial moments throughout this campaign cycle, including on “senior moments,” when Biden came under fire for remarks about former segregationist Democratic senators and deeming sexual misconduct allegations against Biden as distractions from beating Trump.

Jones has vowed to back whomever the Democrats ultimately nominate against Trump in 2020, no matter how radical that individual is.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 days ago

Alabama Farmers Federation president praises ‘phase one’ trade deal with China

(White House/Flickr, ALFA Farmers/Contributed, YHN)

President Donald J. Trump and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He on Wednesday signed “phase one” of a trade agreement between the United States and China.

The agreement includes a commitment from China to buy more American agricultural goods, including soybeans and pork.

In a statement afterward, Alabama Farmers Federation president Jimmy Parnell thanked the Trump administration and called the phase one deal “a step in the right direction.”

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China has also reportedly pledged to increase its spending on all American goods by $200 billion over the next two years compared to 2017 levels. At least $40 billion of that total will be spent on U.S. farm goods, according to the administration.

“This trade deal is a step in the right direction and a welcome sign for our farmers who have been dealing with low commodity prices,” Parnell said. “We appreciate the administration fighting for better trade deals for agriculture.”

In a statement, American Farm Bureau Federation president Zippy Duvall echoed Parnell’s optimism about the agreement.

“Today’s signing is an important step in giving America’s farmers and ranchers the ability to get back to business in the global market,” Duvall remarked. “This agreement will help turn around two years of declining agricultural exports. The potential of tens of billions more in exports is welcome news for farmers who are eager to compete on a more level playing field.”

The agreement takes effect in 30 days.

You can read information from the White House here.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

4 days ago

Two groups joining to publicize availability of grants that fund Alabama’s lauded First Class Pre-K classrooms

(PIxabay, YHN)

Two Alabama organizations are partnering to raise awareness of the possibility for child care providers to receive state grant money towards adding an Alabama First Class Pre-K classroom to their fall 2020 offerings.

The Alabama School Readiness Alliance (ASRA) and the Alabama Association for Early Care and Education (AALECE) will put on a webinar hosted by Dr. Barbara Cooper from the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education. The webinar will tell any interested party how they can apply for grants to fund a First Class Pre-K classroom.

The webinar will also detail changes made to the program that includes more money for grants and different schedules for payment.

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A release stated, “Public and private schools, child care centers, faith-based centers, Head Start programs, nonprofits and other community-based preschool providers are all eligible to apply.”

Groups can qualify for up to $150,000 in grant funding from Alabama per eligible classroom.

“The Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education has listened to feedback from child care providers and responded by making important changes to the First Class Pre-K program,” said Allison Muhlendorf, executive director of ASRA, a nonprofit group that spreads the word on expanding pre-k in Alabama.

According to the Department of Early Childhood Education, the three types of First Class Pre-K grants are “an excellence grant (up to $50,400), a tiered grant (ranges from $86,904 to $100,008) and a new classroom or plus grant (up to $120,000).”

The deadline to apply for one of the grants is March 13, 2020.

Those interested can go here.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.