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.

5 hours ago

Aderholt: Implement ‘Buy America’ policies to secure medical, pharmaceutical supply chains

(WVTM/YouTube)

Congressman Robert Aderholt (AL-04) on Wednesday is set to send a letter to President Donald Trump advocating for additional “Buy America” requirements as the nation deals with the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Aderholt is known nationally as a staunch supporter of Trump’s “America First” trade agenda, especially when it comes to manufacturing. The congressman previously stated, “This president has stood up more for manufacturing jobs in Alabama and across the country — not just Alabama — than any president.”

Now, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to shape American life, Aderholt is urging the president to use his full authority under existing law to strengthen Buy America policies when it comes to the manufacturing of medical supplies and pharmaceutical ingredients.

Aderholt’s letter to Trump as follows:

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I appreciate the work your administration has done to address the health security threat posed by the COVID-19 virus. This global pandemic has highlighted the risk Americans face from an overreliance on imported products in securing public health.

This virus, which originated in Wuhan, China, has rapidly spread across the globe with over 1.4 million cases confirmed according to Johns Hopkins University. With China producing significant quantities of the world’s medical supplies and active pharmaceutical ingredients, this centralization of global supply imposes significant health security risks should U.S. access be threatened or interrupted. Through China’s actions to hide the severity of the outbreak in their country, it is clear that they do not take their responsibility to international partners seriously.

While it is important to support our international allies in confronting this pandemic, we must prevent foreign control over the supply and price of health-related commodities in the United States. In order to assure an uninterrupted supply, it is critical to encourage the development of enough domestic capacity to avoid placing the lives of Americans in the hands of foreign suppliers.”

Buy America policies create demand for domestically produced goods, helping to sustain and grow domestic manufacturing and the millions of jobs it supports without additional spending. Americans expect that their taxpayer dollars will be used to purchase high-quality products produced in America by American workers and the businesses that employ them, not help China grow its domestic industry while enabling the collapse of U.S. manufacturing.

I encourage the use of existing authority to implement additional Buy America requirements for federal procurement of medical supplies and active pharmaceutical ingredients, helping use taxpayer- financed purchases to rebuild our public health industrial base in support of our national security.

RELATED: Keep up with Alabama’s confirmed coronavirus cases, locations here

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

1 day ago

GOP State Reps. Garrett, Lovvorn urge Ivey to involve healthcare, business leaders in implementing coronavirus orders

(Joe Lovvorn, Alabama House District 79 Representative, Governor Kay Ivey, Representative Danny Garrett/Facebook, YHN)

In a letter sent to Governor Kay Ivey on Monday, State Reps. Danny Garrett (R-Trussville) and Joe Lovvorn (R-Auburn) called into question the implementation of recent State Health Orders related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Yellowhammer News on Tuesday obtained the letter, which began by saying, “At the request of Speaker Mac McCutcheon, we have been asked to regularly update and inform the leadership of the House of Representatives about concerns and recommendations from the Alabama business community as we all work through the Cornonavirus crisis.”

“We are also members of the Emergency Small Business Task Force you established to address concerns specific to the small businesses,” the representatives noted.

While advising Ivey that task force members “support the decisions you and [State Health Officer] Dr. [Scott] Harris have made to make to take precautions necessary to prevent the spread of the virus and to safeguard the health of our citizens,” the letter continued to raise some serious concerns.

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“Although we support the Administration’s and Department of Health’s orders, we are concerned that the communication and implementation of these orders  have created unnecessary angst, hardship and confusion among individuals and businesses across the state,” Garrett and Lovvorn wrote. “We also believe the goal of limiting spread of the virus has been unintentionally compromised.”

The next paragraph, all in bold, emphasized, “In the future, we urge you to involve members of the business and health services communities in discussions of how best to communicate and implement decisions before orders are executed. We also request that you have a meeting with representatives of the business communities to hear their ideas on what can be done now to address unintended consequences that are occurring.”

The letter then listed three examples of purported communication and implementation concerns:

  • First, it was not clear in the initial order that “nonessential” businesses could continue to operate online or that they could utilize pick-up and curbside services. It took more than a week for this matter to be clarified and eliminate the confusion. Many individuals and businesses were unnecessarily harmed during this time.
  • Second, the initial order restricted visitors to hospitals. After the first order, we are aware of a situation where a hospital did not allow a family member to speak with medical personnel when their elderly mother – who has numerous health issues and limited ability to communicate—was admitted by ambulance to the hospital at 11;00 PM on a Friday. The family was not able to speak with the hospital personnel until 12 hours later, and only after a representative of ADPH intervened and clarified the order.
  • Third, the most recent order drastically reduced the number of people who can be inside an essential business. The affected large stores were not given advance notice of the decision and did not have time to adequately prepare for the ensuing chaos. On Friday night and Saturday before 5:00 PM, these stores were packed to capacity with people inside and outside who were confused about the Stay at Home Order and who were not practicing social distancing. In addition, we understand from several big box managers that merely reducing the numbers of customers inside the store based upon square footage is not an adequate solution.

“In each of the above examples, had a team of business and health care services representatives been involved before the orders were issued, a more effective and workable solution could have accompanied each order and provided clarity and less confusion. In addition, we could have potentially offered suggestions for optimal prevention of spreading the virus,” the letter outlined.

“We urge you to, now and in the future, please involve members of the affected businesses and health providers in developing implementation plans for executive orders. The members of the Legislature also stand willing to help and assist with planning and communication,” Garrett and Lovvorn stated.

You can read the full letter here.

Garrett is the House majority whip and has been an outspoken advocate for small businesses throughout the pandemic. He previously voiced his concerns that an Ivey administration State Health Order treated small businesses differently from national, big-box chains selling the same products.

In an interview with Yellowhammer News last week, Ivey responded to this type of concern, which has been expressed publicly by multiple legislators.

“The job that Dr. Harris and I have is to protect our people of our state, not worry about who buys what from where,” Ivey told Yellowhammer News. “We’re trying to protect our people as best we can…”

She added, “[W]e’re just trying to provide access to people to able to get what they need — but maybe not everything that they want from where they’ve been getting it. It’s just a matter of trying to protect people from coming in contact with one another.”

Ivey also stressed that balancing the economic impacts of her decisions is “one of the hardest things” she has to do.

“Economic health is vital to our people, as well as their safety and their health,” she said. “So, it’s a balancing act — both of which are very important. And I’m sure we’re going to make some mistakes along the way, and we’re not going to please everybody all the time. But we’re trying hard to protect both our economy — small businesses and our large businesses — so we can keep our economy robust, and it’ll be there when we’re all ready to go back to work.”

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

5 days ago

Tuberville on China, coronavirus: ‘We’ve got to worry about Alabama and this country’ right now

(Tommy Tuberville, Jeff Sessions/Facebook, YHN)

Former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville is taking a different stance on China than his Republican primary runoff competitor, former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

In an appearance on Talk 99.5’s “Matt and Aunie Show” Thursday morning, Tuberville was asked about what he thought was happening with China.

He responded, “Well, we can’t worry about China right now. We’ve gotta worry about Alabama and this country.”

Experts agree that the novel coronavirus originated somewhere around the city of Wuhan in China, and the country spent several weeks trying to obscure the extent of the outbreak. There have since been significant indications that the death toll in China is higher than the country is publicly reporting.

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Sessions has called for an extensive investigation into the communist government that runs China, and blasted the current leadership there, calling it an “evil regime.”

“You know, I hear about all these people hollering for investigations and we always investigate,” commented Tuberville on Thursday, before later adding, “[Congressional committees] investigate and nothing ever comes of it, so right now we’ve gotta worry about this country. ‘Cause right now we’re in trouble.”

In tweets responding to the Tuberville interview, Sessions said, “China’s where the virus is from, and their deliberate lies hid the danger & resulted in a pandemic that never should’ve happened! We must take on China NOW and WIN, not run scared like Tommy Tuberville!”

Later in the interview, Tuberville praised President Donald Trump’s efforts to shift the United States’ economic relationship to China.

“They’re gonna be knocked to their knees, and they should be,” the former coach said.

Paul Shashy, Tuberville’s campaign manager, said in a statement to Yellowhammer News, “If Jeff Sessions was too afraid to stand up to Robert Mueller, how can we ever expect him to stand up to China? Like President Trump, Coach Tuberville believes we should focus all of our resources on ending the Coronavirus pandemic, fixing our economy, and helping the Alabamians who need help now. Once that’s done, he’ll stand with the president to hold the Chinese fully accountable, unlike Jeff Sessions, who voted with Ted Kennedy and John Kerry to reward China with permanent trade status.”

Tuberville and Sessions will face each other at the ballot box on July 14 in the Republican primary runoff.

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

5 days ago

Brooks thanks Pence for halting shipments of American medical supplies to foreign countries

(Congressman Mo Brooks, White House/Flickr, YHN)

Congressman Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) on Thursday praised recent actions taken by Vice President Mike Pence to stop the shipping of American-owned medical supplies to other countries.

“It is the height of irresponsibility for America to ship our medical supplies to foreign countries when Americans desperately need those supplies here,” said Brooks in a statement accompanying the letter.

The representative for Alabama’s fifth district commented further, “I thank Vice President Pence and the Coronavirus Task Force for putting Americans First as we battle this once-in-a-century pandemic.”

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The shipments of supplies had been coming from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), a federal agency dedicated to supporting countries less fortunate than the United States.

According to media reports, Pence paused all shipments of protective gear to other countries upon learning that a part of the federal government was shipping medical supplies overseas

Pence also ordered the coronavirus task force he oversees to scrutinize all U.S. aid deliveries. The vice president maintains that some equipment the United States has an excess amount of will be shared with America’s allies who are in turn alleviating shortages in America.

“We applaud this decision, and commend the Task Force for taking decisive action as it manages this once-in-a-century health crisis,” wrote Brooks in his letter, which was signed by seven other U.S. Representatives.

“Until we have the capacity to produce enough PPE and medical equipment to fill anticipated supply gaps in our health care system and to replenish our domestic stockpiles, we respectfully request that the Task Force continue its moratorium on shipments of government-owned medical supplies to foreign nations,” concludes the letter.

The full text of the correspondence can be read here.

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

6 days ago

Report: Trump campaign has told Sessions to back off on claims about Trump support

(Fox News, TIME/YouTube)

A report published Thursday by the New York Times says that President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign is requesting former Attorney General Jeff Sessions stop tying himself to the president in his quest to win back the seat Sessions once held.

The Times was able to acquire the official letter that Trump campaign chief operating officer Michael Glassner sent to the Sessions campaign.

Glassner criticized Sessions for “the delusional assertion that you are President ‘Trump’s #1 supporter,’” according to the Times’ piece.

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The Sessions campaign had promoted on social media images touting the president’s support, and according to the Times, had distributed a mailer that mentioned Trump 22 times.

(Twitter/JeffSessions)

“We only assume your campaign is doing this to confuse President Trump’s loyal supporters in Alabama into believing the president supports your candidacy in the upcoming primary runoff election. Nothing could be further from the truth,” wrote Glassner.

A spokeswoman for the Sessions campaign told the Times that Sessions “is indeed one of the strongest supporters of President Trump and his agenda” and “no one can change that.”

The spokesperson pointed out that voters in Alabama have bucked President Trump’s endorsement twice before: when they picked Roy Moore over Luther Strange and when they picked Doug Jones over Roy Moore.

Then-Senator Jeff Sessions was the first United States Senator to endorse then-candidate Trump during the 2016 campaign. Sessions served as Trump’s first attorney general from the beginning of the administration until fall 2018.

Sessions’ handling of the investigations into the Trump campaign while serving as attorney general incurred the president’s anger and prompted several tweets expressing strong disapproval.

In early March, Trump endorsed former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville, who is Sessions’ opponent in the upcoming primary runoff election on July 14.

The winner of that runoff will go on to face Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) in November.

The full letter from the Trump campaign COO can be read here.

Update 2:01 p.m.:

Sessions campaign spokesperson John Rogers sent Yellowhammer News the following statement:

The people of Alabama are going to decide this race, not Washington. Alabamians are an independent lot and they make their own decisions. Our campaign is resolutely focused on the important challenges facing America, and the critical issues to Alabama and our economy.

There’s no doubt that Jeff Sessions is ready to lead from Day One.

Jeff Sessions is the only person in this race who has the knowledge and toughness to hold China accountable for its cover-up of the Wuhan Virus, to end illegality at the border, and to defend the great American heritage of law, liberty, and prosperity.

That is what this race is all about. Tommy Tuberville will not be able to hide his lack of preparedness for this role. Tommy should quit hiding from these issues and the voters of Alabama—it’s time for him to man up, and debate.

Editor’s note: The Sessions campaign advised that the letter in question was in the process of being mailed before the president’s endorsement of Tuberville. The fundraising letter was reportedly mailed on March 6, and the Trump endorsement came on March 10.

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

1 week ago

Merrill: Alabama’s ‘greatest champion and favorite son’ Richard Shelby delivers once again

(Senator Richard Shelby/Facebook, PIxabay, YHN)

Alabama Secretary of State John H. Merrill on Wednesday released a statement praising U.S. Senator Richard C. Shelby’s role (R-AL) in the recent coronavirus (COVID-19) stimulus package passed by Congress and signed into law by President Donald J. Trump.

Merrill also touted the overall leadership being provided to the nation by Trump, as well as the work Governor Kay Ivey is doing for the Yellowhammer State.

Shelby is Alabama’s longest serving senator, and his accomplishments for his home state are well recognized by political observers. Merrill outlined that the COVID-19 stimulus package is merely the latest example of Shelby delivering for his fellow Alabamians.

“Our state is incredibly lucky to have leaders who are willing to step up to the plate and go to bat for Alabama, which is precisely what Senator Shelby has done,” Merrill stated.

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“The historic coronavirus relief package recently appropriated to the states would not have been possible without the leadership and guidance of Senator Shelby,” he continued. “How do I know this? I know this to be true because those words came straight from Senator Mitch McConnell and his team. When liberal extremists pushed their agenda, Senator Shelby drew a line in the sand and said, ‘no farther!’”

There were reports that Democrats were trying to insert provisions related to the Green New Deal into the package, as well as voting measures championed by the left that Merrill and others believed could have jeopardized election security and increased voter fraud.

“I am most grateful for the $400 million provided by Congress to protect the 2020 elections. I am also thankful for the provisions that allow each state to do what is best for that state,” Merrill commented.

He said, “Senator Shelby and his team have been receptive and engaged in finding proactive solutions to ensure the safety and security of our elections are not compromised.”

“After countless calls from me and other election officials from across the country, Senator Shelby made it a priority to see that states were granted the flexibility to best accommodate their respective communities under the bill’s stipulations,” the secretary of state added. “Unlike others who have attempted to implement nationwide election changes – many that would increase the likelihood for voter fraud and voter intimidation to be committed – Senator Shelby has proven yet again that federal interference into the elections process in unwarranted and unnecessary.”

Merrill concluded by lauding the stalwart service of Shelby, as well as casting an optimistic and unifying message as the nation continues to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

“While we work to get through these trying times, we must remember there is much to be grateful for, such as the collaboration of federal, state and local officials across the country who are working together to provide assistance to those who are most in need,” he advised.

“At the forefront of this fight, finding a solution to the problems we face is Alabama’s Senior Senator, our greatest champion and favorite son, United States Senator Richard C. Shelby!” Merrill concluded.

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

Merrill’s full statement as follows:

As we navigate these unchartered waters, we must remember that Alabama has a lot to be grateful for.

The leadership exemplified by state and national leaders like President Donald J. Trump, United States Senator Richard Shelby and Governor Kay Ivey should not go unnoticed.

Our state is incredibly lucky to have leaders who are willing to step up to the plate and go to bat for Alabama, which is precisely what Senator Shelby has done.

The historic coronavirus relief package recently appropriated to the states would not have been possible without the leadership and guidance of Senator Shelby.

How do I know this? I know this to be true because those words came straight from Senator Mitch McConnell and his team. When liberal extremists pushed their agenda, Senator Shelby drew a line in the sand and said, ‘no farther!’

I am most grateful for the $400 million provided by Congress to protect the 2020 elections. I am also thankful for the provisions that allow each state to do what is best for that state.

Senator Shelby and his team have been receptive and engaged in finding proactive solutions to ensure the safety and security of our elections are not compromised.

After countless calls from me and other election officials from across the country, Senator Shelby made it a priority to see that states were granted the flexibility to best accommodate their respective communities under the bill’s stipulations.

Unlike others who have attempted to implement nationwide election changes – many that would increase the likelihood for voter fraud and voter intimidation to be committed – Senator Shelby has proven yet again that federal interference into the elections process in unwarranted and unnecessary.

While we work to get through these trying times, we must remember there is much to be grateful for, such as the collaboration of federal, state and local officials across the country who are working together to provide assistance to those who are most in need.

At the forefront of this fight, finding a solution to the problems we face is Alabama’s Senior Senator, our greatest champion and favorite son, United States Senator Richard C. Shelby!

RELATED: Keep up with Alabama’s confirmed coronavirus cases, locations here

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

1 week ago

Jeff Sessions has a clear message for China: The world knows your communist regime is culpable for the Wuhan coronavirus

(Jeff Sessions/Twitter, Pixabay, YHN)

Former Attorney General and U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions seems to have a clear message for China: The United States will not take your Godless, communist regime’s lying and cheating anymore.

During an appearance on WVNN this week, Sessions said the United States and the world know that China covered up the origins and spread of the virus for months, and we know they are now engaging in a disinformation campaign to shed their culpability.

Sessions on Monday’s broadcast of “The Dale Jackson Show” took some strong punches at China, saying, “It’s a duty we have to explain to the American people, and to the world, really, the danger of this kind of government. It cannot be the dominant government in the world, it will not be if we stand up to it.”

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Sessions acknowledged that we have allowed this to happen with weak trade and foreign policy. He noted the reaction of the world would be far different if America was responsible.

“Imagine an American company, or American government, had learned about this virus and sat on it for weeks and allowed the world to be infected,” he stated. “I mean, the world would be in an outrage.”

But what can be done?

If elected to his old Senate seat, what will he specifically work to do?

Sessions isn’t the first politician to point out that we can’t allow China to dominate the markets of critical supplies and infrastructure needs, such as medical supplies and high-speed internet.

Specifically, Sessions outlined, “This is one where we need to send a message to China. No. You’re not gonna supply our medicines. Especially when you say you might cut them off. You’re not gonna supply our 5G high tech communications system, high speed. We’re not gonna let you dominate that.”

My takeaway:

This is nothing new for Jeff Sessions.

He has long been a leading critic on China for most of his career. He was calling for us to get tough on China before anyone else even cared.

The world has been too soft on China, and the United States has an obligation to end that. This is our wakeup call. This isn’t about trade, it is about the lives of Americans, which Sessions correctly noted that China’s state-run press has threatened.

America has an obligation to make sure the world knows this coronavirus is the fault of China and punish them for unleashing this on the world.

The coronavirus pandemic proves Jeff Sessions has been correct on China for decades. They lie, cheat and steal to achieve world dominance. He is also right when he says we cannot allow this to continue and our allies around the globe can’t keep turning a blind eye to it or they will win.

China has a plan to continue to dominate globally, and we need people that understand it and know how to combat it at the forefront of this fight.

Listen:

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 am weekdays on WVNN.

1 week ago

Merrill outlines how Alabama will spend election-related federal stimulus money

(J. Merrill/Twitter)

Included in the recently enacted $2 trillion federal coronavirus (COVID-19) stimulus package was $400 million to be allocated to the states to protect the integrity of the nation’s electoral process.

Alabama Secretary of State John H. Merrill’s office on Monday released information detailing that the Yellowhammer State will receive $6,473,611, which will further be matched 20% by the secretary of state’s office ($1,294,723) for a total of $7,768,334.

This funding will cover both the primary runoff on July 14 as well as the general election on November 3.

“Our intentions are to use this funding to reimburse counties for various preparation and election expenses including, but not limited to, masks, gloves, disinfectant spray, hand-sanitizer, alcohol wipes, and professional cleaning services to return the polling places back to their safe and sanitary pre-election condition,” the secretary of state’s office stated.

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An application for county commissions to request reimbursement will be provided on the official website of the secretary of state’s office as soon as the money is made available to the State.

Additionally, $900,000 of the total will be allocated to reimburse absentee election managers for increased costs resulting from the lengthened absentee voting period, and $1,000,000 will be used to compensate poll workers with an additional $25.00 on Election Day.

“I am extremely grateful for the leadership displayed by Senator Mitch McConnell and Senator Richard Shelby and for their listening to the concerns I expressed as well as the advice and guidance provided by other chief election officials from across the country. It is important that those at the state and local level are granted the flexibility to address the needs of their respective communities,” Merrill said.

“This funding will protect the health and safety of our voters, poll workers, and others involved in the electoral process,” he added. “I also appreciate the assistance provided by Governor Kay Ivey’s Office, the State Comptroller’s Office, and the Association of County Commissions of Alabama.”

Reports of state spending will be submitted to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission for full transparency and public inspection. All resources must be expended for these purposes no later than December 31, 2020, Merrill’s office advised.

RELATED: Keep up with Alabama’s confirmed coronavirus cases, locations here

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

2 weeks ago

Alabama Senate releases meeting plan for remainder of 2020 regular session

(State of Alabama)

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama Senate now has a framework for finishing the legislature’s 2020 regular session.

To this point, the Senate has not missed any legislative days due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, as the chamber was already scheduled for a two-week spring break that is set to end this coming Tuesday.

Yellowhammer News on Thursday afternoon obtained a memo to all senators that advised the chamber is still set to meet as scheduled on Tuesday, March 31.

However, that is intended primarily as an organizational meeting in which the Senate will discuss the weeks ahead. Strict social distancing protocols will be in place for the meeting, and senators in at-risk categories are recommended not to attend.

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“As leaders, it is imperative that we demonstrate that the business of this state carries on in an orderly and systematic fashion while adhering to the recommendations of our public health officials,” the memo stated.

The memo outlined that chamber leadership currently intends for the Senate to adjourn after Tuesday until “possibly” April 28.

At that time, the hope is that the coronavirus curve will have been flattened so the chamber can get back to work and finish out the regular session by passing important legislation. May 19 is the last possible day of the 2020 regular session, per state law. The memo called for the Senate working from April 28-May 18; they would have a maximum of 15 legislative days to burn in that timeframe.

This is a preliminary plan subject to change as needed for health and safety reasons.

If the pandemic’s status is not conducive to the Senate returning to work on April 28, a later date certain could be chosen in its stead before May 19. If the legislature does not pass the state’s two budgets in the regular session, a special session would be an absolute necessity before the end of the fiscal year.

The memo further stressed that the budgets are the priorities in the Senate’s preliminary plan for the remainder of the regular session, along with “other bills deemed necessary.”

The Alabama House is also set to return to the statehouse on Tuesday, March 31, for one day. The lower chamber has not yet announced how it will proceed with the rest of the regular session, however a plan similar to the Senate’s plan is ultimately expected from the House.

Read the full Senate memo here.

RELATED: Keep up with Alabama’s confirmed coronavirus cases, locations here

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

2 weeks ago

Growing chorus of Republicans urge consideration of economic impacts of COVID-19 precautions

(PIxabay, YHN)

In a Facebook post on Wednesday morning, U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt (AL-04) joined a growing number of Republican elected officials arguing that the health of the economy must be taken into account amid measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

After acknowledging the seriousness of the COVID-19 outbreak, Aderholt commented that “as we look beyond the crisis, we must consider that the economic damage could cripple the country.”

The Haleyville native continued, “President Trump wants people back to work by Easter. I don’t know the best timetable, but I’m hoping it can be weeks not months.”

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Aderholt’s comments come in the wake of Republicans across the country arguing for the necessity of economic considerations during the pandemic.

In an interview on Friday with Yellowhammer News contributor Jeff Poor’s radio show on WVNN, State Senator Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) expressed some misgivings with the severity of the coronavirus precautions.

“I watch what is happening to the economy and how the politicians seem to be trying to outrace themselves to implement new restrictions. I’m starting to get real serious questions about how things are operating,” advised Orr.

U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks (AL-05) was one of the first politicians to make comments with similar considerations to Aderholt’s. He tweeted on Saturday, “A collapsed economy risks more American lives than #COVID19 does.”

That line of thinking was made more prominent by a tweet from President Donald Trump on Sunday, where he said in part, “We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself.”

RELATED: Are we in danger of being broke and sick instead of just sick?

Trump indicated that he would “love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter” in a press conference, but later cautioned, “Rest assured, every decision we make is grounded solely in the health, safety and well-being of our citizens.”

Some prominent Republicans have argued that business can only fully resume after the virus is dealt with.

U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) argued on Twitter, “There will be no normally functioning economy if our hospitals are overwhelmed and thousands of Americans of all ages, including our doctors and nurses, lay dying because we have failed to do what’s necessary to stop the virus.”

“Once we get past this the economy is going to rebound,” U.S. Rep Gary Palmer (AL-06) assured the public during an appearance on Talk 99.5’s “Matt & Aunie Show,” arguing that a good economy was only on pause until the spread of the virus is contained.

U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) has promoted a measure in the stimulus bill recently passed by the Senate that will provide $300 billion for small businesses impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

“My priority is keeping the Alabama economy going as much as possible,” said Alabama Governor Kay Ivey in a press briefing Tuesday.

In the same briefing, Ivey argued that Alabama was not in need of the very strict “shelter in place” orders implemented by some more direly affected states. Such orders have particularly strong negative effects on a state’s economy due to only the most essential businesses being allowed to continue operations.

“We have to get back to work,” said Ivey, who also added, “The safety and well-being of Alabamians is paramount.”

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

2 weeks ago

Chairs at closed Alabama beach spell out ‘TRUMP’

(Mark Levin/Facebook)

Alabama’s beaches have all been closed since last Thursday at 5:00 p.m. CT due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

While the normal crowds of visitors on Spring Break can no longer be seen across coastal Baldwin County, one spot in Orange Beach was not totally vacant.

As posted on social media by Mark Levin, somebody took advantage of the state-ordered beach closures by assembling a large group of beach chairs to spell out “TRUMP.”

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While it certainly could have been a tourist from outside the Yellowhammer State who took the time to show their support for President Donald J. Trump, it is fitting that the gesture occurred in Alabama, where the president has consistently enjoyed one of his highest — and often the highest — approval ratings nationwide.

RELATED: Trump: ‘Our country wants to go back to work’

Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus via the Alabama Department of Health here and find related resources from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) here.

For the latest on general COVID-19 developments, visit the CDC’s website.

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

2 weeks ago

After voting to block coronavirus stimulus package, Jones supports advancing the bill one day later

(Sen. Doug Jones/Facebook)

After voting Sunday to block a massive coronavirus (COVID-19) relief funding package from advancing, U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) on Monday flipped his vote on the very same procedural motion.

Jones broke with his Democratic colleagues on the second, identical vote within 24 hours to invoke cloture on H.R. 748, which represents a total economic stimulus approaching $2 trillion.

In a remark to CNN after the Monday vote, Jones reportedly said he was “embarrassed” at the partisan fighting that continues to play out over the package.

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Jones’ opposition to the bill advancing the previous day came after U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced her opposition to the measure. Pelosi and fellow Democrats are reportedly attempting to force language championed by environmentalists into the coronavirus relief bill, including tax credits for solar and wind energy companies.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), an Alabama native, took to the Senate floor on Monday to blast the Democrats’ demands, which he said also include “provisions to force employers to give special new treatment to big labor, and listen to this — new emissions standards for the airlines.”

“Democrats won’t let us fund hospitals or save small businesses unless they get to dust off the Green New Deal,” McConnell lamented.

“Are you kidding me? This is the moment to debate new regulations that have nothing, whatsoever to do with this crisis,” he added. “That is what they are up to over there. The American people need to know it!”

McConnell further pointed to how the negotiations over the package were bipartisan in the Senate until Pelosi voiced her opposition on Sunday.

“We were this close. We were this close. Then yesterday, the speaker of the House flew back from San Francisco,” McConnell advised.

Sixty votes are needed to break the Democratic filibuster and invoke cloture on the package. After invoking cloture, the chamber could move to a final vote on H.R. 748.

Jones’ office did not immediately respond to Yellowhammer News’ request Monday afternoon for comment. This article will be updated if a statement is provided.

UPDATE 7:05 p.m.

Jones tweeted out a video with his thoughts on the Monday vote.

RELATED: Keep up with Alabama’s confirmed coronavirus cases, locations here

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

2 weeks ago

Merrill: Absentee balloting still an option for runoff voters concerned about coronavirus

(Contributed)

Following the postponement of Alabama’s March 31 primary runoff to July 14, Secretary of State John H. Merrill reiterated that Alabamians concerned about the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) can still vote by absentee ballot.

Merrill had previously detailed this as an option when March 31 was still the runoff date, and in a Monday release he explained that this has not changed.

“Amid coronavirus concerns, it is important to remember that Alabamians who are concerned about contracting or spreading an illness have the opportunity to avoid the polls on Election Day by casting an absentee ballot,” Merrill stated. “Alabamians can access the application online or by visiting or calling their local Absentee Election Manager’s office.”

Alabama voters are also able to contact the secretary of state’s office at (334) 242-7210 to request an absentee ballot application.

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The release from Merrill’s office advised that any qualified voter who determines it is impossible or unreasonable to vote at their physical polling place shall be eligible to check the box on the absentee ballot application that is most applicable to that individual. State law allows the secretary of state to issue absentee voting guidance during declared states of emergency, thus allowing Merrill to encourage voters to check the box which reads as follows (in the case none of the other boxes are more appropriate):

“I have a physical illness or infirmity which prevents my attendance at the polls. [ID REQUIRED]”

For the runoff, the deadline to register to vote is now June 29. Meanwhile, the deadline to submit an absentee ballot application is July 9. The deadline to return an absentee ballot to their absentee election manager is the close of business on July 13, and the last day to postmark an absentee ballot is also July 13. Voters who are eligible to vote pursuant to the Uniformed and Overseas Absentee Voting Act will have until July 14 to postmark an absentee ballot.

“We have worked to provide safe, secure, and free elections for the people of Alabama through offering an extended absentee voting period for the upcoming Primary Runoff Election, and we will continue to see that Alabamians have the opportunity to participate in the electoral process in a way that does not affect their health or well-being,” Merrill concluded.

For updated coronavirus information and guidelines, Alabamians should continue to monitor the Alabama Department of Public Health’s website here and the CDC’s website here.

RELATED: Keep up with Alabama’s confirmed coronavirus cases, locations here

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

2 weeks ago

Doug Jones joins Senate Dems in blocking consideration of coronavirus stimulus package

(Doug Jones for Senate/Facebook)

U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) on Sunday voted against advancing the third round of coronavirus (COVID-19) relief funding.

Jones joined Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and the rest of his Democratic caucus members present in voting against invoking cloture on the nearly $2 trillion economic stimulus package — H.R. 748. As reported by national outlets such as The Hill, Jones and his fellow Democrats effectively “blocked” the stimulus by filibustering.

Afterwards, futures for the S&P 500 fell by 5%, triggering a halt in trading. As of 10:50 a.m. CT on Monday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 4.45% on the day.

An email from the Senate Leadership Fund blasted Jones and Senate Democrats for opposing cloture, calling it “one of the most craven and shameful maneuvers in recent history.”

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“It is unconscionable for Senate Democrats to play politics while Americans are suffering during this crisis. Democratic Senate candidates across the country benefiting from Chuck Schumer’s political support need to answer whether they have the backbone to stand up to him on this irresponsible and dangerous maneuver. Silence is complicity,” stated Senate Leadership Fund communications director Jack Pandol.

U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) voted to support advancing the stimulus package, as did every other Republican voting.

Politico and others have reported that the stimulus package is the result of bipartisan negotiations in the upper chamber. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has advised that H.R. 748 was headed to passage until House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on Sunday announced her opposition to the package.

Regardless, in a statement after the vote on Sunday, Jones pointed the finger at Republicans for the package not advancing.

“We need a strong, bipartisan package that directly assists our workers, our health care providers, and vulnerable folks who need it most,” Jones said. “We have no time to waste, so I am hopeful that this failed vote reiterates the message to Leader McConnell that the time for games is over and we need to move tonight to a bill that can receive broad support from the Senate and also pass in the House. We’ve got more work to do on this bill to make sure we’re not leaving working families behind.”

Alabama’s junior senator also released a video about the vote.

Kevin Knoth, a spokesperson for the Republican National Committee, stated, “If Doug Jones was taking coronavirus seriously, he would have voted for the aid Alabamians need – but it’s apparent Jones would rather play partisan games with Chuck [Schumer] and Nancy [Pelosi] than serve the Yellowhammer State.”

RELATED: Keep up with Alabama’s confirmed coronavirus cases, locations here

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

3 weeks ago

BCA names Jean Elizabeth Miles director of communications

(BCA/Contributed, YHN)

The Business Council of Alabama (BCA) on Friday announced that Jean Elizabeth Miles will serve as the organization’s director of communications.

A press release advised that Miles comes to BCA from Lockheed Martin, where she served as a community relations representative for missiles and fire control in Orlando, Florida.

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Prior to that role, Miles was a part of Lockheed Martin’s communications leadership development program (CLDP), serving as the first visual communications CLDP representative in both Bethesda, Maryland, and Orlando.

“We are proud to welcome Jean Elizabeth to our team,” stated BCA president and CEO Katie Boyd Britt. “Her experience and strong worth ethic will prove an immediate asset to BCA and the business we represent”.

Miles is a graduate of Auburn University with a degree in industrial design and communications.

RELATED: Helena Duncan joins BCA as director of strategic operations and growth

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

3 weeks ago

Shelby, Jones support Families First Coronavirus Response Act; Bill receives final passage

(Sen. Richard Shelby/Facebook)

The U.S. Senate on Wednesday passed H.R. 6201, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which unlocks billions of dollars in funding to combat coronavirus (COVID-19) and provides further relief for hardworking families, businesses and industries negatively impacted by the pandemic.

U.S. Senators Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Doug Jones (D-AL) both voted to support the measure.

As chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, Shelby was instrumental in the process leading to passage of the important legislation in both chambers.

“During this unprecedented time, the Senate has been able to advance another agreement to help combat this deadly disease,” Shelby said in a statement on Wednesday after the Senate passed the act.

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This package, which passed by a bipartisan vote of 90-8, establishes emergency paid family and medical leave for those affected by coronavirus. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act also increases unemployment benefits and food aid while providing additional flexibility to the Departments of Treasury and Labor to assist small businesses.

The legislation now moves to the desk of President Donald J. Trump for his signature. The Senate will soon move to another stimulus package to protect the economy and provide further relief, per Shelby’s office.

“Although my colleagues and I still have urgent work to do, this is a step in the right direction. It is my hope that in the coming days, we can pass an additional package that will contain comprehensive funding and protections to mitigate this virus and safeguard small businesses and others that make up the economic foundation of our nation,” Shelby added.

Jones took to the Senate floor on Tuesday to speak about coronavirus and what the American people — and Congress — can do to combat the disease.

In addition to the legislation passed on Wednesday, the Senate previously passed an emergency supplemental funding package on March 5 that provided $8.3 billion in total resources to prevent, prepare for and respond to coronavirus.

For updated coronavirus information, Alabamians should continue to monitor the Alabama Department of Public Health’s website here and the CDC’s website here.

Additionally, major cities in Alabama such as Montgomery, Birmingham, Huntsville, Mobile, Tuscaloosa, Auburn and Dothan have created landing pages with their latest news on the coronavirus.

RELATED: Aderholt requests emergency funding for rural broadband

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

3 weeks ago

Aderholt requests emergency funding for rural broadband

(Robert Aderholt/Facebook)

Congressman Robert Aderholt (AL-04) on Wednesday afternoon sent a letter to President Donald Trump requesting emergency funds be directed to expanding rural broadband access.

With more people across the nation working and learning from home during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, there is an even greater strain in unserved and underserved areas when it comes to high-speed internet services, further placing an emphasis on the digital divide in places like Alabama.

In his letter, Aderholt also pointed to rural broadband deficiencies as negatively impacting the ability of people in rural areas to utilize telehealth services, which are being recommended to limit the potential spread of coronavirus.

“These new realities have left millions of rural Americans who have little or no access to broadband feeling abandoned and desperately in need of help,” the congressman wrote.

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“As you negotiate with Congress on upcoming emergency legislation regarding COVID-19, I strongly urge you to prioritize the expeditious delivery of broadband to rural areas to ensure students have access to remote educational services and residents have full access to telehealth services,” Aderholt continued. “I applaud your strong leadership through this national emergency as your administration works to change the trajectory of COVID-19 and slow its spread, and simply ask that you not forget rural Americans who are forced to face the consequences of the digital divide as new containment measures are implemented.”

Aderholt is a senior member of the U.S. House Appropriations Committee and is considered a leading champion in Congress of expanding rural broadband access.

UPDATE 5:50 p.m.

Aderholt released a video about his letter.

For updated coronavirus information, Alabamians should continue to monitor the Alabama Department of Public Health’s website here and the CDC’s website here.

Additionally, major cities in Alabama such as Montgomery, Birmingham, Huntsville, Mobile, Tuscaloosa, Auburn and Dothan have created landing pages with their latest news on the coronavirus.

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

3 weeks ago

Merrill issues guidance for July 14 primary runoff

(Contributed)

Following Governor Kay Ivey’s announcement on Wednesday morning that Alabama’s primary runoff will be postponed from March 31 to July 14, Secretary of State John Merrill issued a statement explaining the new public timeline for the runoff, including registration and absentee ballot deadlines.

Merrill and Attorney General Steve Marshall joined Ivey for a closed access press conference announcing the postponement.

This came after an emergency opinion from Marshall the previous evening ruling that Ivey had the legal power to do so under the currently declared State of Emergency. Merrill had requested that emergency opinion and supported the postponement of the runoff. Local election administrators across the state had also voiced their support for the postponement.

In a statement after the Wednesday press conference, Merrill said, “When I took office as Alabama’s 53rd Secretary of State, I set out to ensure a free and fair elections process for the people of Alabama. First and foremost, however, the safety and well-being of every single Alabamian is my top priority.”

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“The guidelines prescribed by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention and the Alabama Department of Public Health have made it clear that it is no longer advisable for the people of Alabama to go to the polls to vote on March 31,” he advised.

“The opportunity to participate in the electoral process and have one’s voice heard at the polls is one that we will continue to protect and advocate for,” Merrill stated. “In postponing the March 31 Runoff Election to July 14, we are continuing Alabama’s practice of providing free and fair elections that do not compromise the safety and health of our voters, poll workers, and anyone else who may be involved with the elections process.”

The secretary of state continued, “This new date will allow for the electoral process to continue in a normal manner. This delay will allow all local election officials the time to assess and evaluate the changes that must be made to ensure the Runoff Election is administered according to plan.”

Merrill detailed that eligible Alabamians may continue to register to vote for the primary runoff until June 29.

Additionally, absentee ballot applications that have already been successfully submitted will still be valid for the July 14 runoff. Those looking to check on the status of your application should contact their local absentee election manager.

All absentee ballot applications must now be received by the close of business on July 9.

If delivered by hand, completed absentee ballots must be received by the respective absentee election manager by the close of business on July 13. If returning by mail, the last day to postmark an absentee ballot is also July 13.

Voters eligible to vote pursuant to the Uniformed and Overseas Absentee Voting Act will have until July 14 to postmark an absentee ballot.

An updated FCPA filing calendar for candidates is available here. An updated administrative calendar is available here.

Comprehensive election information can be found on the Alabama secretary of state’s website here.

Merrill concluded, “I am grateful to Governor Ivey and General Marshall for their proactive leadership, sincere dedication, and spirit of teamwork that we have seen displayed during these trying times to ensure we are providing a safe and secure environment for all 3,585,209 voters in the State of Alabama to participate in the electoral process.”

Contests on the ballot for the primary runoff include Alabama’s Republican U.S. Senate race between Jeff Sessions and Tommy Tuberville. There is also a GOP congressional primary in both AL-01 (between Jerry Carl and Bill Hightower) and AL-02 (between Jeff Coleman and Barry Moore).

For updated coronavirus information, Alabamians should continue to monitor the Alabama Department of Public Health’s website here and the CDC’s website here.

Additionally, major cities in Alabama such as Montgomery, Birmingham, Huntsville, Mobile, Tuscaloosa, Auburn and Dothan have created landing pages with their latest news on the coronavirus.

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

3 weeks ago

Barry Moore endorsed by Club for Growth and political arm of House Freedom Caucus

(Moore Campaign/Contributed)

Former State Representative Barry Moore’s (R-Enterprise) campaign for Congress this week received endorsements from two prominent national conservative groups: the House Freedom Fund and the Club for Growth.

Moore is set to face Wiregrass businessman Jeff Coleman in a runoff election to decide who will be the Republican nominee in Alabama’s heavily conservative Second Congressional District. In the March 3 primary, Coleman received 38.06% of the vote to Moore’s 20.45%.

Moore came in ahead of former Attorney General Troy King and Prattville businesswoman Jessica Taylor in that primary, even though Moore’s campaign relatively trailed in fundraising compared to the rest of the competitive field in the race, including Coleman.

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The House Freedom Fund is an independent political action committee affiliated with the Freedom Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives. The Freedom Caucus is widely considered the furthest-right bloc within the House Republican Conference.

Two well-known members of the Freedom Caucus have been U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and former U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), now chief of staff to President Donald Trump. The House Freedom Fund is led in part by Ray Yonkura, who was previously Jordan’s chief of staff.

In an email sent to donors, Yonkura announced the group’s endorsement of Moore, saying, “He’s the only proven conservative candidate in this race who will join the House Freedom Caucus and truly fight for our principles and values in Washington.”

“The Freedom Fund’s endorsement means the world to me. The members of the Freedom Caucus were the President’s staunchest defenders during the impeachment, and they’ve been the tip of the spear in getting his agenda through Congress,” said Moore in a statement.

“The Freedom Caucus has been the President’s go-to group in the House since day one. President Trump proved this by choosing his last two Chiefs of Staff, Mick Mulvaney, and Mark Meadows, from the Freedom Caucus,” he added.

Moore was the first elected official in Alabama to endorse then-candidate Trump in 2015, and he has a claim to be one of the first in the nation.

He has maintained he will join the House Freedom Caucus if elected to Congress.

The Club for Growth is an influential force based in Washington, D.C., that backs candidates through its various political arms. In other Alabama races, they spent heavily against U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) in his U.S. Senate run, and are backing former State Senator Bill Hightower (R-Mobile) in the congressional race in Alabama’s first district and now former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville in the U.S. Senate Republican primary runoff.

“Barry Moore is a veteran and a principled, free market conservative who hasn’t shied away from the big fights on taxes, deregulation, and term limits,” said David McIntosh, Club for Growth PAC President in an announcement of the group’s endorsement.

The most recent FEC fundraising data is accurate as of  March 11. It shows Moore’s campaign has no cash on hand and is heavily in debt to loans from Moore himself.

“Barry Moore was massively outspent in the initial primary phase of this campaign, but he shocked the political establishment in Alabama by working hard and turning out his supporters,” said House Freedom Fund’s Ray Yonkura on the subject of fundraising.

Neither the Freedom Fund nor the Club for Growth indicated the level of financial resources they would be putting behind getting Moore elected.

The primary runoff, originally scheduled for March 31, has been moved to July 14 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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

3 weeks ago

Ivey postpones Alabama’s primary runoff to July 14 due to coronavirus pandemic

(Gov. Ivey/Twitter)

MONTGOMERY — In a closed access press conference on Wednesday, Governor Kay Ivey announced that Alabama’s primary runoff will be postponed from March 31 to July 14 due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

This came after an emergency opinion from Attorney General Steve Marshall the previous evening ruling that Ivey had the legal power to do so under the currently declared State of Emergency.

Secretary of State John Merrill had requested that emergency opinion and supported the postponement of the runoff. Local election administrators across the state had also voiced their support for the postponement.

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This is breaking news and will be updated.

“Exercising my extraordinary powers under the Emergency Management Act, I am setting Alabama’s Primary Runoff Election for July 14, 2020,” Ivey explained in a statement. “The ability to hold free and fair elections is an inherent right as citizens of the United States and the great state of Alabama, but the safety and wellbeing of Alabama citizens is paramount.

“Our State Health Officer, Dr. Scott Harris, is recommending that we should practice social distancing and refrain from public gatherings of more than 25 individuals. Maintaining a 6-foot distance between one another is paramount. This guidance alone would be making an election day a hotbed for spreading the virus,” she added. “Persons who are 65 years or older as well as those with previous heart and lung diseases are more vulnerable to the Coronavirus. Knowing the average age of our faithful poll workers qualifies them to be most at-risk adds the necessity to extend the election runoff date.”

Ivey concluded, “Delaying the election to July 14 is not a decision I came to lightly, but one of careful consideration. I appreciate the guidance of Attorney General Steve Marshall and Secretary of State John H. Merrill for their collaboration to ensure the continuity of our state government.”

Marshall and Merrill joined Ivey on Wednesday at the closed press conference while practicing social distancing, staying several feet away from each other.

“Governor Ivey has the legal authority under the Alabama Emergency Management Act to declare a state of emergency as a result of the current pandemic,” Marshall reiterated. “Accordingly, she also has the lawful ability to postpone a primary runoff election to protect public health and safety during the state of emergency.”

Ivey on Wednesday issued an amended State of Emergency to accommodate the postponement. The secretary of state will soon give notice and provide the amended Administrative Calendar, via certified mail and email, to all applicable election officials.

“I am grateful to Governor Ivey and General Marshall for their proactive leadership, sincere dedication, and spirit of teamwork displayed during these trying times,” Merrill commented. “It is critical that we provide a safe and secure environment for all 3,585,209 voters in the State of Alabama to participate in the electoral process.”

Contests on the ballot for the primary runoff include Alabama’s Republican U.S. Senate race between Jeff Sessions and Tommy Tuberville. There is also a GOP congressional primary in both AL-01 (between Jerry Carl and Bill Hightower) and AL-02 (between Jeff Coleman and Barry Moore).

For updated coronavirus information, Alabamians should continue to monitor the Alabama Department of Public Health’s website here and the CDC’s website here.

Additionally, major cities in Alabama such as Montgomery, Birmingham, Huntsville, Mobile, Tuscaloosa, Auburn and Dothan have created landing pages with their latest news on the coronavirus.

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

3 weeks ago

Alabama Attorney General: State of Emergency allows March 31 runoff postponement

(Pixabay, YHN)

MONTGOMERY — Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall’s office on Tuesday afternoon issued an emergency opinion that concludes Governor Kay Ivey can legally postpone the state’s scheduled March 31 primary runoff under her emergency powers.

This came after Secretary of State John Merrill on Sunday requested an emergency opinion on whether the governor’s powers during a state of emergency allowed such a postponement. Merrill’s office called for the runoff to be postponed if legally possible due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic; current laws outside a state of emergency do not provide for the postponement of an election once the date has officially been set.

Governor Ivey on Friday declared a State of Emergency after President Donald Trump declared a national emergency.

The state now awaits a formal announcement from Ivey on whether she will invoke her power and indeed move the runoff.

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The emergency opinion, after analyzing the relevant law, concluded, “The Governor, therefore, has the authority under the [Alabama Emergency Management Act] to declare a state of emergency as a result of the emergence of the COVID-19 virus, and she has the authority to postpone a primary runoff election to protect the public health and safety during the proclaimed emergency. Should the Governor exercise her authority to postpone the primary runoff election, any existing law setting a contrary date for the primary runoff election would be suspended by the AEMA.”

The opinion further wrote to Merrill, “As the state’s chief election official, you have acknowledged that the primary should likely not be postponed beyond July 14, 2020, to avoid interference with the general election in November. We concur with this conclusion and agree that the election should likely not be postponed beyond this date unless the proclaimed emergency persists.”

Trump over the past two days has expressed general opposition to states moving their election dates due to coronavirus, although CDC guidelines now caution against gatherings of over 10 people in efforts to flatten the curve on the spread of the disease.

On Tuesday, Madison County Probate Judge Frank Barger issued a release stating that he, Madison County Sheriff Kevin Turner and Circuit Clerk Debra Kizer share Merrill’s view that the runoff should be postponed due to concerns over administering the election.

Barger listed the following concerns for local election officials in Alabama:

  • Citizens gathering to vote based on the CDC recommendation that groups of people should not exceed 10
  • Exposure of our available election workers to the general public as many are in the most at-risk category
  • Lack of enough election workers necessary to execute the election based on their concerns about exposure and desire to practice social distancing
  • Voting locations that might not be available due to their closure to public access or complete shutdown
  • The ability to procure necessary supplies to provide proper protection to citizens and election workers – this includes hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, etc.

In a tweet following the opinion from the attorney general’s office, Association of County Commissions of Alabama president David Money, the probate judge and county commission chair of Henry County, expressed his support for postponing the runoff.

“It would be very difficult to properly conduct this election given the adverse circumstances. We respectfully ask [Governor Ivey] for her support,” Money concluded.

Gina Maiola, press secretary for Ivey, said in a statement following the opinion’s release, “The governor appreciates the attention to this matter by both the attorney general and secretary of state. She is in the process of thoroughly reviewing all factors surrounding moving Alabama’s upcoming runoff election.”

This is breaking news and may be updated.

For updated coronavirus information, Alabamians should continue to monitor the Alabama Department of Public Health’s website here and the CDC’s website here.

Additionally, major cities in Alabama such as Montgomery, Birmingham, Huntsville, Mobile, Tuscaloosa, Auburn and Dothan have created landing pages with their latest news on the coronavirus.

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

3 weeks ago

Alabama House passes package of bills aimed at improving mental health care

(PIxabay, YHN)

The Alabama House of Representatives last week passed a packet of three bills that aim to improve mental health offerings in the Yellowhammer State.

The votes on all three bills were unanimous, with legislators on both sides of the aisle supporting the initiative.

The passage of the bills was spearheaded by Alabama House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville) who has made mental health a legislative priority of House leadership.

The effort, if made law, would be the first voluntary investment in mental health by the State of Alabama since the 1960s.

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The three main pieces of legislation were as follows:

    1. HB 341, which would require a mental health coordinator on the payroll at every school system.
    2. HB 340, which would let law enforcement take into protective custody for 72 hours those displaying symptoms of mental illness.
    3. HB 326, which would require officers of the law undergo mental-health-related training before being commissioned.

The legislation in question was sponsored by Ledbetter, State Rep. Wes Allen (R-Troy) and State Rep. Rex Reynolds (R-Huntsville) respectively.

“Improving and expanding the mental health services offered by the state will give new hope and needed help to thousands of our fellow Alabamians and the friends and family members who love them,” said Ledbetter in a statement.

Ledbetter’s HB 341 is the bill that would have the state government require and provide funds for a mental health service coordinator at every local board of education in the state of Alabama.

According to the text of the legislation, the coordinator will be “responsible for coordinating student mental health services throughout the local school system.”

The bill also lays out the requirements an individual would have to have in order to qualify for the post.

Allen’s HB 340 would allow officers of the law to take into protective custody people the officers believe to be a “danger to himself or herself or others.”

For an individual to be kept in protective custody, two medical professionals would have to sign a statement saying they believe the individual is mentally unwell.

Those in protective custody would be cared for at a healthcare facility and could be kept for a maximum of 72 hours.

Reynolds’ HB 326 would require officers-in-training at an academy to undergo 16 hours of mental health awareness training before being certified as an officer of the law.

It would also require currently certified officers to complete a continuing education course on mental health awareness.

The full package also includes two resolutions that were passed beforehand.

A resolution from State Rep. Randall Shedd (R-Fairview) calls for appropriating the funds requested by Governor Kay Ivey to build three 24-hour crisis care centers that would offer services like suicide prevention and other mental health services.

Crisis care centers are often highlighted by industry experts as effective, less expensive treatment centers that free up hospital beds.

A resolution from Alabama House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels (D-Huntsville) urges all of Alabama’s counties to consider the Stepping Up initiative, an effort to reduce the number of people in jail with mental illness.

“Studies estimate that one in four Americans suffer from a diagnosable mental health disorder, so simple math indicates that everyone, whether aware or not, knows someone who is struggling and needs these services,” concluded Ledbetter.

All three bills head to the Alabama Senate for consideration.

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

3 weeks ago

Report: Club for Growth endorsing Tuberville, spurning longtime ally Jeff Sessions

(Tuberville Campaign/Contributed, G. Skidmore/Flickr)

Club for Growth is going to endorse former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville in Alabama’s U.S. Senate Republican primary runoff election, according to a report Monday from Politico.

“I think both of them can win, but I think if Trump is not fully on board it becomes harder. And he’s made it clear that Tuberville is his pick,” Club for Growth President David McIntosh said in an interview with the outlet.

Former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has long been an ally of the Club for Growth, and the national conservative group even encouraged him to get into the race this past October.

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According to McIntosh, the group has not yet decided on how much money their political arm is going to spend on getting Tuberville elected. However, in the Politico interview, he committed to making an investment in the race supporting the former Auburn coach.

The Club invested heavily in defeating U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) in the initial primary that concluded on March 3, spending upwards of $600,000 on negative ads. The congressman finished third, with Tuberville coming in first narrowly to Sessions.

The ultimate GOP nominee will go on to face U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) in November.

“Looking forward to the fall, we have to make sure that we win this general election and beat Doug Jones. Everyone is saying, ‘It’s so Republican, we should be able to do that.’ But if we’re split because Trump is on the other side and doesn’t really like Sessions, that could make it very hard,” added McIntosh in his Politico interview.

Polling done by the Club’s political arm last week showed Tuberville with a slight lead, but the survey also showed that lead would be expected to increase significantly after the endorsement by Trump.

The date of the runoff between Sessions and Tuberville is scheduled for March 31 but could be in flux due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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

3 weeks ago

Merrill wants March 31 runoff postponed due to coronavirus — Does current law allow it?

(J. Merrill/Facebook)

A Sunday evening release from Alabama Secretary of State John H. Merrill’s office called for the upcoming March 31 primary runoff to be postponed, however it is still up in the air whether that will — or actually can — happen.

The release outlined that following the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the state and the respective declarations of a national emergency by President Donald Trump and a state of emergency by Governor Kay Ivey, Merrill has requested an emergency opinion from Attorney General Steve Marshall’s office related to the potential postponement of the runoff.

“The health and well-being of the people of this state are of paramount importance. In order to effectively practice social distancing, as recommended by the President of the United States, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), the Alabama Department of Public Health, etc., the March 31 Runoff Election must be postponed,” the release declared.

“In postponing the election until the threat of the Coronavirus is eliminated, Alabamians will be able to participate in the electoral process in a safe and healthy environment, as they have done in the past,” the release continued.

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However, the release also noted that, “Currently, neither the Code of Alabama nor the Constitution of the State of Alabama allow for the suspension, delay, or postponement of an election once the date has been set.”

“This is why, in 2019, our office asked the Legislature to give the Governor the explicit power to be able to take prescribed action through means that would be codified. Our attempt was unsuccessful but in the 2020 Legislative Session, we have asked Senator Donnie Chesteen and Representative David Standridge to introduce this legislation once again for consideration by the membership of their respective bodies,” the release explained.

“In the nature of keeping Alabamians safe from the potential spread of the virus, Merrill has asked if, under the emergency powers granted to the Governor under Section 31-9-1 et seq. Ala. Code, the Governor has the authority to postpone the election,” the released advised. “The Secretary of State’s Office will continue to monitor the situation and will provide additional updates as they become available.”

Absentee ballots have not yet gone out, thus votes in the runoff would not be affected by a potential postponement at this time.

Before the national emergency and state of emergency declarations, Merrill’s office had announced Friday morning that the runoff would continue as planned as of that day. His office added at the time that those worried about the potential spread of coronavirus could vote absentee.

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