The Wire

  • Auburn University’s online programs ranked among the best in the nation

    Excerpt:

    According to U.S. News & World Report’s 2019 Best Online Program rankings released on Tuesday, Auburn University’s online graduate programs are among the best in the nation.

    The university’s online programs that received high marks include the Harbert College of Business’ MBA program at No. 9 and non-MBA, No. 13; Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, No. 12; and College of Education, No. 22

  • Marsh donates to border wall construction fund

    Excerpt:

    As a demonstration of his commitment to border security, Alabama Senate President Pro Tempore Del Marsh (R-Anniston) has personally donated to an online campaign to fund the construction of a wall on America’s southern border.

    “It is obvious that we cannot rely on politicians in Washington to do their job,” Marsh said in a statement to Yellowhammer News. “I have always believed that controlling our borders and our national security is of the utmost importance which is why I supported immigration reform in Alabama in 2011 and why today, I am putting my money where my mouth is and personally donating to build the wall.”

  • Brooks urges State of the Union be held in Senate chamber

    Excerpt:

    On Thursday, Congressman Mo Brooks (AL-5) and House colleagues sent a letter to President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) proposing the president’s annual State of the Union Address be held in the Senate chamber in light of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s historic move to revoke Trump’s invitation to deliver the address.

    In the letter, Brooks and his House colleagues explained, “Holding the State of the Union in the Senate Chamber is the best way to reveal the veracity of Speaker Pelosi’s alleged once-in-history reason for [canceling] or postponing the State of the Union.”

2 days ago

Ainsworth names Jess Skaggs deputy chief of staff

(W. Ainsworth, J. Skaggs/Facebook)

Lieutenant Governor Will Ainsworth on Thursday announced that Jess Skaggs, a former senior administrator with the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries, has been appointed to serve as his deputy chief of staff.

“As lieutenant governor, I plan for my office to be the most active and engaged in Alabama’s history, and Jess Skaggs has the experience, dedication, and energy necessary to help make that plan a reality,” Ainsworth said in a press release. “Jess has a deep desire to serve his fellow Alabamians and to make our state an even better place to live for all of its citizens. I’m happy to have him on my team as we work to provide Alabama with more jobs, better schools, and a higher standard of ethics among its elected officials.”

Prior to joining Ainsworth’s staff, Skaggs served as the deputy commissioner for external affairs in the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries.

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In that role, he spearheaded economic development opportunities for the department, worked with Alabama Legislature to promote the state’s agricultural economy and assisted the commissioner with public policy research and other matters.

Skaggs previously served as the delegation director for the Baldwin County Legislative Office and worked closely with the area’s two senators and five state representatives. He oversaw constituent services, drafted and researched legislation and coordinated community service grants for the delegation members.

He also worked as a legislative aide to former State Sen. Trip Pittman (R-Montrose), who chaired the Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee. The bill that authorized historic improvements to Gulf State Park and the lodging options it now offers was among the measures Skaggs worked upon at Pittman’s behest.

A graduate of Montgomery’s Huntingdon College with a degree in political science and history, Skaggs has also worked on numerous political campaigns as a general consultant and fundraiser.

He and his wife, Charlanna, an attorney specializing in business law, have three daughters and one son.

Ainsworth named Judy Miller as his chief of staff in November.

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

2 days ago

This year’s ‘Pastries with Palmer’ dates announced for Alabama’s 6th congressional district

(G. Palmer/Facebook)

On Wednesday, Congressman Gary Palmer (AL-6) announced the times for 2019 “Pastries with Palmer” meetings with constituents in his Washington, D.C. office.

“My staff and I are looking forward to welcoming many people from Alabama’s Sixth District to my office this year,” Palmer said in a press release. “We’ve been regularly hosting ‘Pastries with Palmer’ for a few years now and it always offers a unique opportunity to interact with constituents and hear from them about issues important to them.”

Palmer typically hosts “Pastries with Palmer” in his Capitol Hill office on the last Wednesday of every month’s legislative session. Meetings are a relaxed meet-and-greet time for constituents to enjoy fresh pastries and coffee with the congressman and his staff. The tradition started during Palmer’s first term in Congress and has become a favorite regular event among constituents of Alabama’s sixth congressional district.

The current dates and times for “Pastries with Palmer” as follows:

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January 30, 9:00 AM

February 27, 9:00 AM

March 27, 9:00 AM

April 11, 9:00 AM

May 22, 9:00 AM

June 26, 9:00 AM

July 25, 9:00 AM

September 25, 9:00 AM

October 30, 9:00 AM

November 20, 9:00 AM

December 11, 9:00 AM

Dates and time may vary, so it is recommended to call 202-225-4921 in advance for confirmation.

Palmer is serving as chair of the Republican Policy Committee in the newly convened 116th Congress, making him the House’s fifth highest ranking Republican.

He represents part or all of Jefferson, Shelby, Chilton, Coosa, Blount and Bibb Counties.

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

3 days ago

Alabama Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed named to national GOPAC advisory board

Sen. Greg Reed, Senate Majority Leader

Alabama Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed (R-Jasper) on Wednesday was named to GOPAC’s 2019 Legislative Leaders Advisory Board.

GOPAC is a federal 527 organization dedicated to educating and electing a new generation of Republican leaders.

In a statement to Yellowhammer News, Reed said, “GOPAC is committed to advancing ideas at the state and federal level that will spur job creation, rein in government spending, and ensure that future generations inherit a free and prosperous nation, so it is an honor to serve on GOPAC’s advisory board with legislative leaders from across the country.”

He added, “The exchange of policy ideas—hearing about what’s working in other states, and sharing what we have done well in Alabama—is tremendously valuable.”

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Members of the Legislative Leaders Advisory Board promote ideas they are championing by addressing elected officials, candidates and members at GOPAC events and via its digital program. In addition, they nominate a promising state legislator for the Emerging Leaders Program and provide updates on key legislative and political developments.

This is the second consecutive year that Reed has been tapped for this leadership position.

“Our Advisory Board Members are essential in our efforts to educate and elect leaders focused on Americans’ personal and economic security,” GOPAC Chairman David Avella said in a press release.

GOPAC describes its mission as follows:

Since 1978, GOPAC has been a force in America because we realize Republicans must champion the ideas that unite voters around a vision of creating jobs, getting government spending under control, making government more effective, and keeping America safe. This is why Republicans turn to GOPAC for coaching and best practices on effective ways to communicate conservative ideas and solutions.

GOPAC has proven success at building a healthy roster of prepared and tested Republican leaders ready to run for higher office. GOPAC is committed to identifying and supporting the next generation of Republican leaders by:

  • Advancing Free Market Conservatism: Each year GOPAC hosts three premium events to bring together legislative, industry, and community leaders to discuss conservative solutions to the challenges our country and states face. These multi-day conferences feature public policy briefings, issue discussions, leadership training, and networking opportunities.
  • Teaching Best Practices: GOPAC works with experienced political professionals to determine and teach effective campaign strategies through online video presentations known as “Imagine. Share. Impact.”
  • Teaming with Our Legislative Leaders Advisory Board: Composed of State Senate and House leadership, the Advisory Board helps promote the ideas and policies being implemented at the state level, as well as assist with electing a new generation of Republican leaders.
  • Analyzing Elections and Supporting Promising Candidates in Competitive Races: GOPAC provides financial support to promising Republican candidates in competitive federal, state, and local elections nationwide.

Reed was integral in the Alabama Senate Republican Caucus’ electoral success in the 2018 cycle.

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

3 days ago

Alabama House of Representatives releases committee assignments

(Wikicommons)

The Alabama House of Representatives released its standing committee assignments for all 105 of the chamber’s members on Tuesday as the March 5 start of the 2019 general session approaches.

This came the day after Inauguration Day, when Governor Kay Ivey said that this legislature has the unique chance to be the “most impactful” in the state’s storied history.

In a statement, Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) explained, “Most of the hard, complex, and important work of vetting and amending the measures that come before the House is completed in the trenches of the body’s standing committees.”

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“Each of our House members, Republican and Democrat alike, have unique insights, experience, and areas of expertise, and we worked hard to assign members to the committees that can best utilize their talents. I am confident that the members of our committees and the legislators who chair them will be prepared to go to work and carry out their duties when the Legislature convenes for the 2019 regular session on March 5,” McCutcheon said.

The assignments for the House’s 25 standing committees follow:

Rules
Chair: Rep. Mike Jones
Vice Chair: Rep. Paul Lee
Ranking Member: Rep. Barbara Boyd
Rep. David Faulkner
Rep. Victor Gaston
Rep. Ralph Howard
Rep. Ron Johnson
Rep. Nathaniel Ledbetter
Rep. Jimmy Martin
Rep. Steve McMillan
Rep. Connie Rowe
Rep. David Standridge
Rep. Pebblin Warren
Rep. Randy Wood

Ways and Means Education
Chair: Rep. Bill Poole
Vice Chair: Danny Garrett
Ranking Member: Rep. Rod Scott
Rep. Alan Baker
Rep. Prince Chestnut
Rep. Terri Collins
Rep. Barbara Drummond
Rep. Corley Ellis
Rep. David Faulkner
Rep. Dexter Grimsely
Rep. Jamie Kiel
Rep. Nathaniel Ledbetter
Rep. Joe Lovvorn
Rep. Steve McMillan
Rep. Debbie Wood

Ways and Means General Fund
Chair: Rep. Steve Clouse
Vice Chair: Rep. Kyle South
Ranking Member: Rep. Laura Hall
Rep. Napoleon Bracy
Rep. K.L Brown
Rep. Jim Carns
Rep. Victor Gaston
Rep. Lynn Greer
Rep. Kelvin Lawrence
Rep. Paul Lee
Rep. Arthur Mooney
Rep. Rex Reynolds
Rep. Chris Sells
Rep. Peblin Warren
Rep. Rich Wingo

Judiciary
Chair: Rep. Jim Hill
Vice Chair: Rep. Tim Wadsworth
Ranking Member: Rep. Thad McClammy
Rep. Wes Allen
Rep. Mike Ball
Rep. Prince Chestnut
Rep. Merika Coleman
Rep. Dickie Drake
Rep. Chris England
Rep. Allen Farley
Rep. David Faulkner
Rep. Matt Fridy
Rep. Mike Holmes
Rep. Phillip Pettus
Rep. Matt Simpson

Economic Development and Tourism
Chair: Rep. Becky Nordgren
Vice Chair: Rep. Ron Johnson
Ranking Member: Rep. Berry Forte
Rep. Chip Brown
Rep. Corey Harbison
Rep. Rolanda Hollis
Rep. Gil Isbell
Rep. Neil Rafferty
Rep. Ginny Shaver
Rep. Andy Whitt
Rep. Rep. Ritchie Whorton
Rep. Randy Wood

Education Policy
Chair: Rep. Terri Collins
Vice Chair: Rep. Danny Garrett
Ranking Member: Rep. Rodd Scott
Rep. Anthony Daniels
Rep. Will Dismukes
Rep. Barbara Drummond
Rep. Brett Easterbrook
Rep. Tracey Estes
Rep. Bob Fincher
Rep. Wes Kitchens
Rep. Tashina Morris
Rep. Kerry Rich
Rep. Proncey Robertson
Rep. Shane Stringer

Transportation, Utilities and Infrastructure
Chair: Rep. Lynn Greer
Vice Chair: Rep. Joe Faust
Ranking Member: Rep. A.J. McCampbell
Rep. Napoleon Bracy
Rep. Danny Crawford
Rep. Victor Gaston
Rep. Rolanda Hollis
Rep. Gil Isbell
Rep. Wes Kitchens
Rep. Parker Moore
Rep. Neil Rafferty
Rep. Randall Shedd
Rep. Margie Wilcox

Boards, Agencies and Commissions
Chair: Rep. Howard Sanderford
Vice Chair: Rep. Mike Holmes
Ranking Member: Rep. John Rogers
Rep. Napoleon Bracy
Rep. Steve Hurst
Rep. Parker Moore
Rep, Proncey Robertson
Rep. Jeff Sorrells
Rep. Scott Stadthagen

County and Municipal Government
Chair: Rep. Reed Ingram
Vice Chair: Rep. Margie Wilcox
Ranking Member: Rep. Barbara Boyd
Rep. Chris Blackshear
Rep. Adline Clarke
Rep. Danny Crawford
Rep. Steve Hurst
Rep. Sam Jones
Rep. Steve McMillan
Rep. Rodney Sullivan
Rep. David Wheeler
Rep. Debbie Wood

Ethics and Campaign Finance
Chair: Rep. Mike Ball
Vice Chair: Rep. Rich Wingo
Ranking Member: Rep. Thomas Jackson
Rep. Allan Farley
Rep. Berry Forte
Rep. Kirk Hatcher
Rep. Demitri Polizos
Rep. Rex Reynolds
Rep. Matt Simpson
Rep. Andrew Sorrell
Rep. Ritchie Whorton

Children and Senior Advocacy
Chair: Rep. K.L. Brown
Vice Chair: Rep. Randall Shedd
Ranking Member: Rep. Barbara Boyd
Rep. Jim Carns
Rep. Barbara Drummond
Rep. Tracey Estes
Rep. Tommy Hanes
Rep. Mary Moore
Rep. Ginny Shaver
Rep. Tim Wadsworth

Military and Veterans’ Affairs
Chair: Rep. Dickie Drake
Vice Chair: Rep. Connie Rowe
Ranking Member: Rep. Thad McClammy
Rep. Steve Clouse
Rep. Ralph Howard
Rep. Sam Jones
Rep. Phillip Petus
Rep. Allen Treadaway
Rep. Randy Wood

Insurance
Chair: Rep. Kerry Rich
Vice Chair: Rep. Corley Ellis
Ranking Member: Rep. Chris England
Rep. Chris Brown
Rep. Louise Alexander
Rep. Chip Brown
Rep. Anthony Daniels
Rep. Brett Easterbrook
Rep. David Faulkner
Rep. Jamie Kiel
Rep. Jimmy Martin
Rep. Kyle South
Rep. David Wheeler

Health
Chair: Rep. April Weaver
Vice Chair: Rep. Ron Johnson
Ranking Member: Rep. Laura Hall
Rep. Matt Fridy
Rep. Jeremy Gray
Rep. Paul Lee
Rep. Craig Lipscomb
Rep. Joe Lovvorn
Rep. Rhett Marques
Rep. Arnold Mooney
Rep. Becky Nordgren
Rep. Ed Oliver
Rep. Neil Rafferty
Rep. Chris Sells
Rep. Pebblin Warren

Agriculture and Forestry
Chair: Rep. Danny Crawford
Vice Chair: Rep. Steve Hurst
Ranking Member: Thomas Jackson
Rep. Will Dismukes
Rep. Joe Faust
Rep. Bob Fincher
Rep. Dexter Grimsley
Rep. Tommy Hanes
Rep. Ralph Howard
Rep. Reed Ingram
Rep. A.J. McCampbell
Rep. Ed Oliver
Rep. Ginney Shaver
Rep. Jeff Sorrells
Rep. Rodney Sullivan

State Government
Chair: Rep. Chris Pringle
Vice Chair: Rep. Chris Sells
Ranking Member: Rep. John Rogers
Rep. Mike Ball
Rep. Barbara Boyd
Rep. Brett Easterbrook
Rep. Rolanda Hollis
Rep. Jamie Kiel
Rep. Kelvin Lawrence
Rep. Connie Rowe
Rep. Harry Shiver
Rep. Scott Stadthagen
Rep. April Weaver

Commerce and Small Business
Chair: Rep. Jim Carns
Vice Chair: Rep. Dimitir Polizos
Ranking Member: Rep. Berry Forte
Rep. Louise Alexander
Rep. Adline Clarke
Rep. Jeremy Gray
Rep. Gill Isbell
Rep. Wes Kitchens
Rep. Nathaniel Ledbetter
Rep. Rhett Marques
Rep. Matt Simpson
Rep. David Wheeler
Rep. Andy Whitt
Rep. Ritchie Whorton

Local Legislation
Chair: Rep. Alan Baker
VIce Chair: Rep. Richie Whorton
Ranking Member: Rep. Thomas Jackson
Rep. Louise Alexander
Rep. Will Dismukes
Rep. Bob Fincher
Rep. Dexter Grimsely
Rep. Ralph Howard
Rep. Craig Lipscomb
Rep. Rep. Randall Shedd
Rep. Harry Shiver
Rep. Scott Stadthagen
Rep. David Standridge
Rep. Tim Wadsworth
Rep. David Wheeler

Internal Affairs Commission
Chair: Rep. Randy Wood
Vice Chair: Rep. Nathaniel Ledbetter
Ranking Member: Rep. Laura Hall
Rep. Chris Blacksear
Rep. Anthony Daniels
Rep. Steve McMillan
Rep. Chris Pringle
Rep. Connie Rowe
Rep. Hoard Sanderford
Rep. Pebblin Warren
Rep. April Weaver

Technology and Research
Chair: Rep. Joe Lovvorn
Vice Chair: Rep. Corey Harbison
Ranking Member: Rep. Laura Hall
Rep. Alan Baker
Rep. Craig Lipscomb
Rep. Steve McMillan
Rep. Mary Moore
Rep. Howard Sanderford
Rep. Rod Scott
Rep. Andrew Sorrell

Urban and Rural Development
Chair: Rep. Randall Shedd
Vice Chair: Rep. David Standridge
Ranking Member: Rep. Prince Chestnut
Rep. Wes Allen
Rep. Chris Blackshear
Rep. Chip Brown
Rep. Sam Jones
Rep. TaShina Morris
Rep. Shane Stringer
Rep. Margie Wilcox
Rep. Debbie Wood

Constitutions, Campaigns and Elections
Chair: Rep. Matt Fridy
Vice Chair: Rep. Bob Fincher
Ranking Member: Juandalynn Givan
Rep. Wes Allen
Rep. Adline Clarke
Rep. Corey Harbison
Rep. Kirk Hatcher
Rep. Arnold Mooney
Rep. Dimitri Polizos
Rep. Chris Pringle
Rep. Howard Sanderford

Fiscal Responsibility
Chair: Rep. Chris Sells
Vice Chair: Rep. Mike Holmes
Ranking Member: Rep. Rod Scott
Rep. Lousie Alexander
Rep. Corley Ellis
Rep. Danny Garrett
Rep. Juandalynn Givan
Rep. Rhett Marques
Rep. Parker Moore
Rep. Ed Oliver
Rep. Rodney Sullivan

Financial Services
Chair: Rep. Chris Blackshear
Vice Chair: Rep. Jimmy Martin
Ranking Member: Rep. John Rogers
Rep. Reed Ingram
Rep. Kelvin Lawrence
Rep. Thad McClammy
Rep. Andrew Sorrell
Rep. Jeff Sorrells
Rep. Kyle South
Rep. David Standridge
Rep. Andy Whitt
Rep. Rich Wingo

Public Safety and Homeland Security
Chair: Rep. Allen Treadaway
Vice Chair: Rep. Allen Farley
Ranking Member: Rep. Thomas Jackson
Rep. Dickie Drake
Rep. Chris England
Rep. Tracey Estes
Rep. Jeremy Gray
Rep. Tommy Hanes
Rep. TaShina Morris
Rep. Phillip Pettus
Rep. Rex Reynolds
Rep. Proncey Robertson
Rep. Connie Rowe
Rep. Harry Shiver
Rep. Shane Stringer

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

4 days ago

State Sen. Gerald Allen responds to judge striking down Alabama Memorial Preservation Act — ‘Judges are not kings’

On Tuesday afternoon, State Senator Gerald Allen (R-Tuscaloosa), the sponsor of the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act, criticized Jefferson County Circuit Judge Michael Graffeo’s ruling that the law is unconstitutional.

Graffeo made the ruling Monday.

“Under the Constitution, judges are to be neutral umpires who apply the rule of law fairly,” Allen said in a statement. “A judge’s personal beliefs, whether about politics, sociology, or history, have no bearing on how he is to apply the law.”

He continued, “Judge Graffeo has taken it upon himself to know and declare that it is ‘undisputed’ that the majority of residents of Birmingham are ‘repulsed’ by the Linn Park monument, and has thus ruled the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act void. But judges are not kings, and judicial activism is no substitute for the democratic process.”

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“The Memorial Preservation Act is meant to thoughtfully preserve the entire story of Alabama’s history for future generations. The law was vigorously debated for months by the people of Alabama’s duly-elected representatives in the State Legislature, and passed with overwhelming majorities in both the House and Senate,” Allen advised.

He concluded, “The Attorney General’s Office is confident that the Memorial Preservation Act is constitutional, and I look forward to the Attorney General’s appeal of Judge Graffeo’s ruling.”

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

4 days ago

Alabama Farmers Federation supports Ivey’s inaugural book drive by donating accurate ag books

The Alabama Farmers Federation and the Alabama Farmers Agriculture Foundation (AFAF) donated 100 books to the Alabama Literacy Alliance in support of Gov. Kay Ivey's inaugural focus on child literacy. From left are Federation and AFAF President Jimmy Parnell, Jefferson County Farmers Federation member and Alabama Literacy Alliance Board Member Polly McClure and Alabama Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries Rick Pate.

MONTGOMERY — While the pomp and circumstance of Alabama’s Inauguration Day gets most of the focus, Governor Kay Ivey – with an assist from partners like the Alabama Farmers Federation – used the festive period to support children’s literacy.

As part of this effort, the governor’s inaugural committee hosted a book drive at the Gulf Coast Inaugural Celebration on Saturday, collecting nearly 2,000 books to be donated to the Alabama Literacy Alliance.

However, this impactful initiative did not stop there. The Inaugural Gala on Monday evening was the official conclusion of the book drive, with more donations coming in during this celebration of Ivey’s first full term.

Additionally, earlier that day amidst the inaugural festivities, a major book donation funded by the Alabama Farmers Federation and Alabama Farmers Agriculture Foundation (AFAF) helped put a bow on top of a successful effort.

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“Covering strawberry plants. Planting oats and rye. Cutting and stacking wood. Those are just a few of the winter farm chores children will learn about when reading one of the 100 copies of ‘Sleep Tight Farm’ donated to the Alabama Literacy Alliance,” a release from the Alabama Farmers Federation explained.

The donation was announced during “Coffee with the Commissioner,” a pre-inauguration event held Monday morning at the RSA Activity Center honoring new Agriculture and Industries Commissioner Rick Pate. The stack of books was even displayed during the reception, with agricultural leaders highlighting the literacy initiative.

“While supporting the governor’s inaugural philanthropic focus, this book donation also fulfills the need to teach students about agriculture and where their food really comes from,” Alabama Farmers Federation and AFAF President Jimmy Parnell said. “This is an exciting time for our state, and we’re proud to participate in such a worthwhile cause.”

“Sleep Tight Farm” by Eugenie Doyle and illustrated by Becca Stadtlander was named Book of the Year by the American Farm Bureau Foundation for agriculture in 2017. In it, a family prepares their land for winter while reminiscing about everything the farm produced throughout the year.

The book donation is in line with the Alabama Farmers Federation and AFAF’s strong commitment to supporting education in the  Yellowhammer State, awarding over $130,000 in college scholarships annually. In September 2018, AFAF worked with Alabama Ag in the Classroom to provide over 900 copies of “John Deere, That’s Who!” to Alabama’s elementary school libraries.

AFAF was created by the Alabama Farmers Federation to support and advance agriculture in the state of Alabama.

Teachers can find numerous resources for incorporating agricultural lessons into their curriculum here or here.

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

5 days ago

Historic Inauguration Day in Montgomery heralds continued growth for Alabama

(J. Poor/YHN)

MONTGOMERY — It was a day of celebration, unity and tremendous optimism as Governor Kay Ivey and other statewide elected officials were officially sworn into office on Monday.

The weather played into the symbolism of the occasion, as a cold, overcast day – a storm almost certainly imminent – gradually became sunnier and sunnier as the afternoon pushed on, much like the outlook of the state under Ivey’s steady guidance.

Political insiders and everyday Alabamians from every nook and cranny of the state gathered in front of the Alabama State Capitol steps for the inauguration ceremony, which began promptly at 10:00 a.m. From the state’s richest man to the single mom who checked her little girls out of school just to see Ivey’s historic oath of office, it was a day that transcended the lines that divide us.

Because Ivey’s inauguration message of “Keep Alabama Growing” is a theme meant for all. It is a message of hope – that even a little girl from Camden, Alabama can rise to be duly elected as the state’s chief executive through hard work and perseverance.

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For those little girls huddled beneath blankets as they sat on the stone-cold Dexter Avenue sidewalk and for girls like them across the state, Monday was something more than history. It was an affirmation that dreams really can and do come true in the Yellowhammer State.

This was a point driven home by Ivey in her well written (and delivered in vintage fashion) inaugural address.

“Like most of my predecessors, my pathway to this spot was certainly not predetermined or even likely. After all, when I was growing up in my hometown of Camden, little girls simply didn’t dream of growing up to one day be elected governor,” she said. “Alabama is a state where dreams do come true. Because in Alabama, anything is possible.”

Ivey also stressed that this tremendous potential for Alabama (and its citizens individually) only increases as unity does the same. With a tribute to the Civil Rights history of the state – and specifically Montgomery with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. having spoken mere yards from where the inauguration stage stood – Ivey said that Alabamians of all races, party affiliations, socioeconomic backgrounds, genders and the like were moving forward together.

Lieutenant Governor Will Ainsworth also delivered a strong message to the same effect, with his mantra of “A New Day in Alabama.”

Gov. Kay Ivey delivers her inaugural address. (J. Poor/YHN)

Ivey specifically highlighted the leaders who have gotten the state to where it is today, Republicans and Democrats alike. But, as she preached throughout the campaign season, the work has only “just begun.”

“Today, all Alabamians – regardless of party affiliation – have the chance to stand together, united, to help build a brighter future and guarantee that our best days are still in front of us,” she commented.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we can all be grateful for this progress,” Ivey emphasized. “But make no mistake – we’re not done yet. We’ve only just begun!”

An Ivey-led Alabama, the governor said, is one that reaches for the stars just as Huntsville’s world-class aerospace industry propels us to Mars and beyond. It is one that breaks into new modern economic drivers, like the automotive industry continues to do and just as Mobile is poised to achieve with aviation manufacturing.

With Ivey’s lofty goals come significant “opportunities,” as she called them, rather than deeming them as “challenges.”

Perhaps the largest one in the coming legislative session that convenes March 5 is infrastructure. Ivey spoke on the issue at length, advocating strongly for increased funding for roads, bridges, waterway maintenance and rural broadband.

She advised, “Improving our infrastructure is more than an investment in our roads and bridges. It’s an investment in economic development, public safety and local communities. Now is the time to increase our investment in infrastructure – now is the time to solve this problem!”

Ivey called on the legislature directly to take on this opportunity – and other important ones like the state prison system and education – with her. She told the assembled legislators that they have the unique chance to be the “most impactful” legislature in the state’s storied history.

“Let’s face it. The challenges we confront today didn’t just arrive on our doorstep,” Ivey remarked. “Likewise, they’ll not go away in weeks or even months, but if we work on them together, Democrats and Republicans, then today’s challenges can be looked upon as tomorrow’s accomplishments.”

“With your help – and with God’s amazing grace – the next four years will not only mark the beginning of our third century, they’ll be the foundation for our best years to come,” the governor added, speaking to each and every Alabamian in the crowd and at home.

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

5 days ago

Montgomery gears up for Ivey inauguration

(S. Ross/YHN)

MONTGOMERY — Governor Kay Ivey and the other officials elected to statewide constitutional offices in November’s general election will be sworn into office on Monday.

This festive day will feature much pomp and circumstance, as people from across the Yellowhammer State gather in Montgomery to celebrate.

The co-chairs of Ivey’s inaugural committee explained that they “want to take a moment to acknowledge and ask the Lord for wisdom, reflect and commit to uphold the duties and ideals outlined in our Constitution and celebrate the progress yet to come.”

Schedule of events as follows:

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Inauguration Day – Monday, January 14

8:15 a.m.: Prayer service at First Baptist Church Montgomery
(Invitation only)

10:00 a.m.: Swearing-in ceremony at Alabama State Capitol steps

12:00 p.m.: Parade starts at Alabama State Capitol

7:00 p.m.: Inaugural Gala
(Invitation only)

The theme of the inauguration is “Keep Alabama Growing.”

“In less than a year and a half, Governor Ivey led Alabama to record job growth, improved education and set Alabama on a path of prosperity,” the co-chairs said in a joint statement.

They continued, “The 2019 Inaugural theme, Keep Alabama Growing, underscores Governor Ivey’s promise to build upon these successes and grow more opportunities for Alabamians. We’re inspired by Governor Ivey’s bold vision for Alabama and look forward to celebrating this exciting new era.”

Ivey is the 54th governor of Alabama. Monday will kick off her first full term as the state’s chief executive.

Lt. Governor-elect Will Ainsworth, Attorney General Steve Marshall, Secretary of State John John Merrill, Agriculture Commissioner-elect Rick Pate, State Treasurer-elect John McMillan and State Auditor Jim Ziegler will also be sworn into their respective offices.

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

5 days ago

Ivey’s Gulf Coast celebration concludes statewide pre-inauguration tour

(Governor's Office/Hal Yeager)

On Saturday, Governor Kay Ivey wrapped up a statewide tour at The Lodge at Gulf State Park, where she held her Gulf Coast celebration featuring platinum recording artist Neal McCoy.

In the week leading up to the celebration, Ivey traveled to First Class Pre-K classrooms in Pine Hill, Mobile, Huntsville and Birmingham promoting children’s literacy. In each city, the governor read and distributed copies of “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” and “Where The Wild Things Are” to local children.

Governor Kay Ivey, as part of the 2019 inaugural initiative to promote children’s reading, visited a First Class Pre-K class at E.R. Dickson Elementary Wednesday January 9, 2019 in Mobile. (Governor’s Office/Hal Yeager)

At the Gulf Coast event, more than 800 Alabamians joined in celebrating the inaugural period, including Lt. Governor-elect Will Ainsworth, Attorney General Steve Marshall, Secretary of State John John Merrill, Agriculture Commissioner-elect Rick Pate, State Treasurer-elect John McMillan, State Auditor Jim Ziegler and Gulf Shores Mayor Robert Craft.

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As part of the governor’s efforts to promote children’s literacy, attendees were encouraged to bring four children’s books.

At the end of the festive evening, Ivey inaugural committee co-chair Dr. Cathy Randall said, “I want to thank our guests, along with the generosity of Books-A-Million and the Alabama Farmers Federation for being a part of the Governor’s efforts to promote children’s literacy throughout the inaugural festivities. I am thrilled to share that nearly 2,000 books were donated to the Alabama Literacy Alliance!”

The inaugural committee will be hosting an additional book drive to benefit the Alabama Literacy Alliance at the inaugural gala on Monday evening.

Governor Kay Ivey, as part of the 2019 inaugural initiative to promote children reading, visited a First Class Pre-K class at Providence Elementary School Thursday January 10, 2019 in Huntsville. Governor’s Office/Hal Yeager)

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

1 week ago

Ivey remains nation’s third most popular governor heading into inauguration

(YHN, Gov. Kay Ivey/Flickr)

New polling released by Morning Consult shows that Governor Kay Ivey (R-AL) continues to be the nation’s third most popular chief executive as her Monday inauguration draws near.

For the final quarter of 2018, Ivey’s numbers were strong. With the survey measuring registered voters’ opinions from October 1 -December 31, the governor’s approval ratings were barely scratched by her electoral battle against Democratic gubernatorial nominee Walt Maddox.

The poll showed that 63 percent of Alabamians approve of Ivey’s job performance, while only 19 percent disapprove and 18 percent either do not know or have no opinion. The margin of error in the polling was one percent.

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Ivey’s latest numbers reflect a net approval rating drop of only three percent from quarter three of 2018. Quarter four polling occurred in the month leading up to and the immediate aftermath of the November general election.

This is the fifth quarter in a row in which Ivey was listed by Morning Consult as the third most popular governor in America.

Nine out of the top 10 most popular governors in the nation are Republicans.

Ivey’s inauguration will be held at 10:00 a.m. Monday on the steps of the Alabama State Capitol. The inaugural parade throughout downtown Montgomery will follow at noon.

The theme of the inauguration is “Keep Alabama Growing,” and given Ivey’s approval rating, it seems to resonate strongly with Alabamians.

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

1 week ago

Polling shows Doug Jones’ approval plummeted in 2018

(SenateDemocrats/YouTube)

New polling released by Morning Consult on Thursday shows that Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) entered 2019 with a net approval rating 17 points lower than the first quarter of 2018.

Jones’ current numbers, which cover the final quarter of 2018, stand at 40 percent of Alabamians approving and 35 percent disapproving. 25 percent do not know him or have no opinion. The poll had a margin of error of only one percent, surveying registered voters.

The numbers reflect the first public polling conducted after Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

Regarding the difference between the third and fourth quarters of 2018, Morning Consult explained that Jones “saw an 8-point drop in his net approval.”

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“Since the first quarter of 2018, his net approval has dropped 17 points,” the research technology company added.

You can read more about the methodology here.

On the other hand, Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) continues to enjoy a low disapproval rating and especially strong net approval rating. Of Alabama’s senior senator, 47 percent of Alabamians approve, only 27 percent disapprove and 25 percent have no opinion.

Jones is expected to face a tough re-election fight in 2020.

Stuart Rothenberg, a prominent national political analyst, wrote for Roll Call this week that Jones starts “as a heavy underdog for re-election.”

He added, “I don’t think Jones has much chance at all of holding on to his seat next year. Simply put, his special election win was a fluke, not likely to be repeated.”

That prediction came with an important caveat: “Obviously, Jones’ prospects would improve if the Republicans select another damaged Senate nominee.”

“Jones’s special election victory was entirely due to Moore’s nomination,” Rothenberg explained.

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

1 week ago

Alabama Senate GOP Caucus names Chambliss floor leader

(Sen. C. Chambliss/Facebook)

On Thursday, Alabama Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed (R-Jasper) announced that state Senator Clyde Chambliss (R-Prattville) has been named majority floor leader for the Republican caucus.

“Senator Chambliss is a proven leader who has a deep grasp of the Senate’s rules and procedures. Most importantly, he has the respect of his Senate colleagues on both sides of the aisle,” Reed said in a press release.

“Senator Chambliss has done an outstanding job as co-chairman of the Joint Legislative Task Force for Budget Reform. As we move forward in this new legislative term, he will help the Republican Caucus and the entire Senate operate efficiently as we continue to reform state government, strengthen education, and improve Alabama’s infrastructure,” Reed added.

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Chambliss represents District 30 in the Alabama Senate, which is comprised of all or parts of Autauga, Elmore, Chilton, Coosa and Tallapoosa counties. He was first elected to the state Senate in 2014 and re-elected without opposition in 2018.

“The State Senate is a unique institution, where 35 people have the privilege of representing the views and interests of nearly 5 million Alabamians from 67 counties,” Chambliss said. “Those views and interests must be heard, organized, and delivered to Senate leadership in a timely manner. It is an honor to be named Majority Floor Leader and I look forward to serving my colleagues in this new role.”

Chambliss is a member of the senate’s Committee on Finance & Taxation General Fund, Committee on Government Affairs, Committee on Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development and Committee on Children, Youth & Human Services for the 2019-2022 quadrennium. He is also the chair of the three-member Committee on Local Legislation (LL1).

Full senate committee assignments can be found here.

The regular session of the Alabama Legislature begins on March 5.

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

1 week ago

Bill to provide AHSAA accountability officially prefiled

(AHSAA, K. South/Facebook)

State Rep. Kyle South (R-Fayette) has officially prefiled his heavily supported bill to bring public oversight and accountability to the Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) moving forward.

Representatives can prefile bills for the legislature’s regular session that begins on March 5 now since the House’s organizational session adjourned sine die on Wednesday.

South’s prefiled bill has been dubbed HB19 and informally referred to the House’s committee on state government. Once the regular session convenes, the bill will formally be referred to the same standing committee.

The bill currently has 90 House cosponsors, plus South. The chamber is comprised of 105 members.

Cosponsors include Speaker Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia), Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville), Minority Leader Anthony Daniels (D-Huntsville) and Majority Whip Danny Garrett (R-Trussville), as well as the committee on state government’s chair and vice chair, state Reps. Chris Pringle (R-Mobile) and Chris Sells (R-Greenville) respectively.

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You can find a copy of the bill here, along with a list of all cosponsors.

While it may be too late to save USA Basketball star Maori Davenport’s senior season at Charles Henderson High School in Troy, South is attempting to fix a problem that he views as much more than an isolated poor decision by the AHSAA.

South’s legislation would do three main things.

First, it would mandate that any rules by the AHSAA regarding a student athlete’s eligibility be reviewed and approved by the State Board of Education. This is directly addressing the type of situation that Davenport now faces.

South’s bill would also codify that 25 percent of the AHSAA governing body be appointed by the State Board of Education or the State Superintendent of Education. This composition would need to be put into place by January 1, 2020, and would provide public accountability throughout all aspects of the AHSAA’s governance.

Thirdly, the legislation would require that the Department of Examiners of Public Accounts audit the AHSAA in the same manner as it would a public agency.

On Thursday, the Alabama House Republican Caucus announced the unanimous endorsement of its 77 members for Maori Davenport’s immediate reinstatement by the AHSAA.

Alabama Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) and Lieutenant Governor-elect Will Ainsworth have called on the AHSAA to reinstate Davenport’s eligibility immediately, too.

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

1 week ago

Prominent tea party activist named Alabama Eagle Forum executive director

(Becky Gerritson/Facebook)

On Thursday, Eagle Forum of Alabama President Eunie Smith and Foundation President Jim Cooper announced Becky Gerritson as the conservative organization’s new executive director.

Gerritson has been a prominent activist in the state since founding the Wetumpka Tea Party in 2009. In 2016, Gerritson received Heritage Action Sentinel’s Firewall for Freedom Award. She was also named in Yellowhammer Multimedia’s 2017 regional Power and Influence List.

The tea party leader even gained national acclaim for her testimony before Congress after Obama’s IRS unfairly targeted the Wetumpka Tea Party and other organizations for their conservative beliefs. She has been lauded by conservative figures across the country, including Rush Limbaugh and Fox Business’ Stuart Varney.

“It is an honor to welcome Becky Gerritson as our Executive Director,” Smith said in a press release. “Becky is an effective conservative leader with a long history of championing the values that Eagle Forum exists to preserve. I have every confidence in Becky’s leadership abilities, and I believe that as Eagle Forum of Alabama Executive Director she will continue to be a bold and respected voice of conviction, principle, and informed policy in Alabama.”

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Gerritson was a Republican candidate for Congress in Alabama’s Second Congressional District in 2016, losing to Congresswoman Martha Roby in the primary by a margin of 66 percent to 27 percent.

“Eagle Forum has been an influential powerhouse of principled conservative thought and grassroots activism for decades,” Gerritson outlined. “I am thrilled to be on the leadership team of this incredible organization. As Alabama moves into 2019 and beyond, it is crucial that our principled conservative voice be stronger and more compelling than ever. I look forward to continuing the fight for our future and our republic with Eagle Forum of Alabama.”

Eagle Forum is a national organization founded by Phyllis Schlafly in 1972. Before passing away in 2016, Schlafly endorsed and praised Gerritson.

“Becky Gerritson is a proven leader. She understands that sound governance doesn’t mean just passing bills that the president will sign, as the current Congress continues to do,” Schlafly outlined. “She knows that sound governance means upholding and defending the Constitution, protecting the security of the American people, and defending the values that have made our country great.”

“Her dedication and passion for the conservative cause has been seen not only by Alabamians but by the nation as she has fearlessly and tirelessly fought against the progressive agenda and big government,” Schlafly added.

The stated mission of Eagle Forum of Alabama is to equip and activate citizens with timely information from a conservative, constitutional point of view on public policy issues that affect the family.

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

1 week ago

Alabama House GOP caucus unanimously approves resolution urging AHSAA to reinstate Maori Davenport

(Rep. Wes Allen/Twitter)

This week, the 77-member Alabama House Republican Caucus unanimously approved a resolution urging the Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) to immediately reinstate the eligibility of USA Basketball and Charles Henderson High School star Maori Davenport of Troy.

As the AHSAA continues to get battered by criticism over its decision to rule Davenport ineligible because of a mistake the association admitted was the fault of others, the House GOP members are making their thoughts known in unison. Davenport spoke to the caucus on Tuesday during the first day of the 2019 organizational session.

“After Maori Davenport appeared before our Caucus and very eloquently explained her situation, the 77 Republican members of the Alabama House stand ready to help her regain her eligibility in any way that we can,” House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville) said in a press release. “Without exception, our legislators urge the AHSAA to immediately reinstate this impressive young woman who simply wanted to represent our country on an international level.”

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The resolution was sponsored by State Rep. Wes Allen (R-Troy), who has helped champion Davenport’s cause since the AHSAA decision and arranged for her appearance at the Alabama State House.

“I am proud to stand alongside Maori Davenport as we work to rectify a situation that should have never occurred,” Allen advised. “Rather than being treated with the callous disregard shown by the AHSAA, young athletes like Maori should be encouraged, supported, and praised.”

The text of the House Republican Caucus Resolution, a copy of which will be sent to the AHSAA and its executive director, Steve Savarese, reads as follows:

Whereas the Alabama House Republican Caucus holds a 77 – 28 supermajority in the House of Representatives; and,

Whereas the Republican supermajority maintains the overwhelming and prevailing opinion among members of the Alabama House; and,

Whereas Charles Henderson High School basketball standout Maori Davenport’s athletic skills and talents earned her a spot on the Team USA roster and a gold medal at the 2018 FIBA Americas U18 Championship; and,

Whereas the USA Basketball program regularly sends a stipend to players who compete for its teams but failed to first check with governing sports officials in Alabama before compensating Davenport; and,

Whereas the 18-year-old Davenport responsibly self-reported the oversight and immediately returned the stipend as soon as it was discovered the check sent to her by USA Basketball exceeded the allowed limit in Alabama; and,

Whereas the Alabama High School Athletic Association ruled Davenport ineligible to play this season in spite of her sincere and timely efforts to rectify a situation that was no fault of her own; and,

Whereas the AHSAA stubbornly refuses to demonstrate empathy and reconsider its decision despite a state and national outcry on Davenport’s behalf by advocates and supporters of amateur athletics; now, therefore, be it

Resolved, that we, the members of the Alabama House Republican Caucus, hereby urge the Alabama High School Athletic Association and its director, Steve Savarese, to reinstate Maori Davenport’s amateur eligibility without delay and take significant steps to ensure that no other student athlete is subject to such callous, unfair, and unjust treatment in future situations of similar circumstance should they arise.

State Rep. Kyle South (R-Fayette) has also drafted a bill that would bring oversight and accountability to the AHSAA. His bill has bipartisan support and was cosponsored by 87 of the 105 House members as of Tuesday.

Alabama Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) and Lieutenant Governor-elect Will Ainsworth have called on the AHSAA to reinstate Davenport’s eligibility immediately, too.

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

1 week ago

Alabama Senate committee assignments announced

(State of Alabama)

MONTGOMERY – Wednesday, the Alabama Senate Committee on Assignments announced the composition of the chamber’s standing committees for the 2019-2022 quadrennium.

In a press release, Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) thanked the committee for their diligent work.

“I want to thank the Committee on Assignments for their work on these committees, they did a fantastic job of matching Senators with the committee that best takes advantage of their strengths and abilities,” Marsh said.

Committees will be composed as follows:

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Committee on Rules

1. Jabo Waggoner (Chair)
2. Clay Scofield (Vice Chair)
3. Gerald Allen
4. Linda Coleman-Madison
5. Vivian Figures
6. Jimmy Holley
7. Steve Livingston
8. Jim McClendon
9. Tim Melson
10. Arthur Orr
11. Greg Reed
12. Rodger Smitherman

Committee on Finance & Taxation Education

1. Arthur Orr (Chair)
2. Tim Melson (Vice Chair)
3. Greg Albritton
4. Gerald Allen
5. Donnie Chesteen
6. Priscilla Dunn
7. Vivian Figures
8. Garlan Gudger
9. Jim McClendon
10. Clay Scofield
11. David Sessions
12. Bobby Singleton
13. Rodger Smitherman
14. Jabo Waggoner
15. Tom Whatley

Committee on Finance & Taxation General Fund

1. Greg Albritton (Chair)
2. Gerald Allen (Vice Chair)
3. Billy Beasley
4. Tom Butler
5. Clyde Chambliss
6. Linda Coleman-Madison
7. Jimmy Holley
8. Steve Livingston
9. Jim McClendon
10. Arthur Orr
11. Malika Sanders-Fortier
12. Larry Stutts
13. Jabo Waggoner
14. Cam Ward

Committee on Confirmations

1. Clay Scofield (Chair)
2. Jabo Waggoner (Vice Chair)
3. Gerald Allen
4. Will Barfoot
5. David Burkette
6. Vivian Figures
7. Sam Givhan
8. Andrew Jones
9. Greg Reed
10. David Sessions
11. Rodger Smitherman
12. Larry Stutts
13. Cam Ward
14. Tom Whatley
15. Jack Williams

Committee on Judiciary

1. Cam Ward (Chair)
2. Will Barfoot (Vice Chair)
3. Greg Albritton
4. Linda Coleman-Madison
5. Vivian Figures
6. Sam Givhan
7. Arthur Orr
8. Malika Sanders-Fortier
9. Bobby Singleton
10. Rodger Smitherman
11. Larry Stutts
12. Tom Whatley

Committee on Government Affairs

1. Jimmy Holley (Chair)
2. Chris Elliott (Vice Chair)
3. Greg Albritton
4. Clyde Chambliss
5. Linda Coleman-Madison
6. Sam Givhan
7. Garlan Gudger
8. Arthur Orr
9. Dan Roberts
10. Malika Sanders-Fortier
11. Shay Shelnutt

Committee on Education Policy

1. Tim Melson (Chair)
2. Donnie Chesteen (Vice Chair)
3. David Burkette
4. Tom Butler
5. Priscilla Dunn
6. Chris Elliott
7. Vivian Figures
8. Jim McClendon
9. Randy Price
10. Shay Shelnutt

Committee on Agriculture, Conservation & Forestry

1. Tom Whatley (Chair)
2. David Sessions (Vice Chair)
3. Billy Beasley
4. Chris Elliott
5. Garlan Gudger
6. Andrew Jones
7. Steve Livingston
8. Tim Melson
9. Randy Price
10. Clay Scofield
11. Bobby Singleton
12. Larry Stutts
13. Jack Williams

Committee on Banking & Insurance

1. Shay Shelnutt (Chair)
2. Jack Williams (Vice Chair)
3. Will Barfoot
4. David Burkette
5. Donnie Chesteen
6. Chris Elliott
7. Andrew Jones
8. Steve Livingston
9. Randy Price
10. Dan Roberts
11. Clay Scofield
12. Bobby Singleton
13. Rodger Smitherman
14. Jabo Waggoner
15. Tom Whatley

Committee on Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development

1. Steve Livingston (Chair)
2. Garlan Gudger (Vice Chair)
3. Will Barfoot
4. Tom Butler
5. Clyde Chambliss
6. Priscilla Dunn
7. Arthur Orr
8. Dan Roberts
9. Malika Sanders-Fortier
10. Clay Scofield
11. Shay Shelnutt
12. Cam Ward

Committee on Transportation & Energy

1. Gerald Allen (Chair)
2. Dan Roberts (Vice Chair)
3. David Burkette
4. Tom Butler
5. Donnie Chesteen
6. Priscilla Dunn
7. Chris Elliott
8. Sam Givhan
9. Andrew Jones
10. Steve Livingston
11. Randy Price
12. Greg Reed
13. David Sessions

Committee on Healthcare

1. Jim McClendon (Chair)
2. Larry Stutts (Vice Chair)
3. Billy Beasley
4. Tom Butler
5. Donnie Chesteen
6. Linda Coleman-Madison
7. Tim Melson
8. Greg Reed
9. Dan Roberts
10. Cam Ward
11. Tom Whatley
12. Jack Williams

Committee on Children, Youth & Human Services

1. Larry Stutts (Chair)
2. Andrew Jones (Vice Chair)
3. Greg Albritton
4. Will Barfoot
5. Billy Beasley
6. Clyde Chambliss
7. Linda Coleman-Madison
8. Sam Givhan
9. Jimmy Holley
10. Dan Roberts
11. Malika Sanders-Fortier
12. Shay Shelnutt
13. Jack Williams

Committee on Tourism

1. Del Marsh (Chair)
2. Randy Price (Vice Chair)
3. Billy Beasley
4. Priscilla Dunn
5. Chris Elliott
6. Garlan Gudger
7. Andrew Jones
8. Tim Melson
9. David Sessions
10. Bobby Singleton
11. Rodger Smitherman

Committee on Veterans & Military Affairs

1. Tom Butler (Chair)
2. Sam Givhan (Vice Chair)
3. Will Barfoot
4. Billy Beasley
5. David Burkette
6. Donnie Chesteen
7. Jimmy Holley
8. Malika Sanders-Fortier

Committee on Local Legislation (LL1)

1. Clyde Chambliss (Chair)
2. Del Marsh
3. Greg Reed

“I look forward to working with these members in the upcoming session. There are some tough issues facing the state and I believe these committees and their members are best equipped to address these issues in a way that benefits the people of Alabama,” Marsh added in the press release.

Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed (R-Jasper) emphasized that he was excited to see these new committees in action.

“Committees are the backbone of the legislative process, a place where bills are refined and improved and ideas are vigorously debated,” Reed explained.

“Like the entire Senate, the committee chairmen come from all walks of life and include small business owners, doctors, farmers, former teachers, and attorneys from every region of our state,” Reed said. “The 4.8 million citizens of Alabama deserve the best leadership possible, and I am confident that these citizen-lawmakers will ably lead the Senate’s fifteen committees during the new legislative term.”

Highlighting the chamber’s bipartisanship, Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro) applauded the way committee assignments were handled.

“Because we are in the minority we’re only going to get so many seats on committees. However, I think what has been done was fair based on the percentage of people that we have,” Singleton said. “There were only two committees that we didn’t get seats, the Committee on Assignment and the Local Legislation Committee, but I would have liked to have representation on those as well, and of course we would love some chairmanships.”

‘Happy people’

The optimism and collegiality purveyed in the three leaders’ respective statements echo the sentiments Marsh and Reed relayed to Yellowhammer News in a recent interview.

“Senator Reed, who was in charge of trying to put the puzzle together with the organization and committee assignments and everything else, he and some other members that were involved did a masterful job,” Marsh told Yellowhammer News.

While committee assignments were announced Wednesday, the second and likely final day of the legislature’s 2019 organizational session, all of the senators knew of their committee assignments well before their orientation meetings in December. In fact, Reed personally called each member to inform them of their pending assignments before Thanksgiving.

Marsh advised, “We’ve got truly 27, in my opinion, happy people [in the Senate Republican Caucus] and all the Democrats – let me tell you, we work with them, we’ve always made an effort to make sure that everybody is treated with respect in the Senate.”

“All is good,” he concluded. “And Senator Reed, I have to give him credit on that. He’s the one who worked day in and day out with that.”

Reed added, “Well, and I appreciate Senator Marsh and his engagement in the process as well. And certainly his wisdom and advice as Pro Tem, in regards to things that worked well [in the past] and how we could put it together.”

“I think that as we wound up understanding who our members [in the Republican Caucus] were going to be, and also who were going to be the members of the minority caucus, trying to look at all these different backgrounds, with all the different elements of their experiences and what they were bringing to the table, to try and look at the big, giant puzzle of the organization of the Senate – who functions best in different roles – was something that we looked at with a keen eye and tried to understand where people could best serve,” Reed explained.

The majority leader said, “Being able to work on it together with a good quality group of men and women, we’ve been able to have a good outcome.”

The state legislature’s regular session kicks off on March 5.

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

1 week ago

Maori Davenport rule? State Rep. Kyle South has bill drafted to bring oversight, accountability to AHSAA

(Rep. South/Facebook, ESPNW/Instagram)

While it may be too late to save USA Basketball star Maori Davenport’s senior season at Charles Henderson High School in Troy, one prominent state legislator has drafted a bill to bring public oversight and accountability to the Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) moving forward.

As the AHSAA continues to get battered by criticism over its decision to rule Davenport ineligible because of a mistake the association admitted was the fault of others, state Rep. Kyle South (R-Fayette) is attempting to fix a problem that he views as much more than an isolated poor decision by the AHSAA.

In an interview with Yellowhammer News during the first day of the House organizational session on Tuesday, South explained that the AHSAA’s lack of accountability and transparency has been an issue – and prickly point of contention with state lawmakers and officials – going back for years.

While the Davenport situation has given the AHSAA a fresh black eye on the national stage, change has been a long time coming. And, seeing that South already has a whopping 87 House cosponsors, and counting, signed on after just one day back in Montgomery, 2019 might just be the year that change finally happens.

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Per a copy of the draft bill obtained by Yellowhammer News, South’s legislation would do three main things.

First, it would mandate that any rules by the AHSAA regarding a student athlete’s eligibility be reviewed and approved by the State Board of Education. This is directly addressing the type of situation that Davenport now faces.

Second, South’s bill would codify that 25 percent of the AHSAA governing body be appointed by the State Board of Education or the State Superintendent of Education. This composition would need to be put into place by January 1, 2020, and would provide public accountability throughout all aspects of the AHSAA’s governance.

Which leads into the third change: the legislation would require that the Department of Examiners of Public Accounts audit the AHSAA in the same manner as it would a public agency.

While the AHSAA is a private organization and prides itself on the autonomy therein, South views these changes as reasonable, constructive measures of accountability seeing that the AHSAA boasts membership consisting mostly of public entities, relies on money sent to it by these public entities and holds the majority of its events on public properties.

In fact, South said “in a roundabout way,” the AHSAA subsists off of public funds.

“The majority of their revenues are from gates, during playoffs in every sport, where a third of that money has to be paid back to the AHSAA in the form of a check from the schools,” South explained. “And at the point that they cut a check from a [public] school, it’s public funds. So, for them to say that we don’t have any authority whatsoever over them, technically we could cut off their funding. And that’s not what I’m aiming to do, but if we need to we could go down that road.”

At the end of the day, if the legislature really wanted to, it could create a publicly run entity within or overseen by the State Department of Education to replace the AHSAA. That would possibly be the most extreme solution and one that South is not currently proposing. But he did advise that other states governed their high school athletics by doing just that.

The House of Representatives’ will to get involved and shake up the AHSAA did not happen overnight.

“I think this one situation [regarding Davenport] has highlighted some ongoing issues, and while it’s brought forth things to light for many people, we’re not doing this just because of this one incident. This is a cumulative thing, where there have been situations over the years that have led to this. And [Davenport’s] situation is the one that broke the camel’s back,” South outlined.

From South’s perspective, the AHSAA has general oversight and accountability problems that are leading to poor decisions by the association, which in turn produce poor outcomes for student-athletes and schools.

“My biggest problem with [the AHSAA] is that the schools make up the board members obviously … but for fear of retribution by their governing body, nobody ever brings up any issues and it becomes somewhat of a dictatorship at that point,” South advised. “If you’re scared to say your piece for fear of retribution, then you’ve got a big problem.”

Davenport and South at the Alabama State House on Tuesday
(Rep. South/Facebook)

While South has not moved onto finding a senator to carry the bill in that chamber or solicit Senate cosponsors quite yet, the representative did tell Yellowhammer News that both chambers received a special visit from Davenport herself on Tuesday. State Rep. Wes Allen (R-Troy) and the mayor of Troy helped introduce her around to share her story.

The basketball sensation spoke to the House majority caucus and even gave an address on the Senate floor.

South said that Davenport “obviously has a lot of talent, and unfortunately she’s just being kept from showing those talents right now.”

“That’s the unfortunate part,” South added.

But, like South believes, Davenport emphasized to the legislators Tuesday that even if they cannot resurrect the remainder of her senior season, they can prevent this type of situation happening to any more student athletes in Alabama moving forward.

“I don’t know if anything we can do can get her back on the court, but I would like to put as much pressure in place to see that happen as possible and prevent a similar thing happening in the future,” South stressed.

With 87 House cosponsors in one day (South believes that he will end up with over 90 representatives cosponsoring when all is said and done), he is certainly making waves.

“If that doesn’t get somebody’s attention, I don’t know what will,” South remarked.

He expects to prefile the bill when the House organizational session adjourns sine die. The last possible day of the organizational session is Thursday, January 17.

Alabama Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh and Lieutenant Governor-elect Will Ainsworth have called on the AHSAA to reinstate Davenport’s eligibility immediately, as have additional state legislators from both parties, including state Rep. Chris England (D-Tuscaloosa) and Allen.

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

2 weeks ago

Mac McCutcheon re-elected as Alabama House speaker

(Speaker MacMcCutcheon/Facebook)

MONTGOMERY — Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) on Tuesday was re-elected in a resounding, bipartisan 98-1 vote.

Upon his re-election, McCutcheon delivered the following remarks from the well of the chamber:

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Let me begin by thanking you for the trust and confidence you have placed in me with this election as speaker of the House. Since first assuming this office a few years ago, I have tried hard to preside in a manner that is as fair and impartial as the good Lord above will allow me. You have my promise that the same fairness and impartiality will be in evidence over the next four years.

Before I became speaker, I served as the House Rules chairman, a position that I enjoyed. It was also one that taught me a deep respect for the legislative process and instilled in me a determination to let it work as it was intended.

As a legislator you have two choices before you. You can choose to be guided primarily by your own ambitions, desires, and personal interests, or you can choose to be led by a desire to make Alabama a better place for the constituents you represent.

In other words, you can choose to be a flash in the pan, or you can build a lasting legacy of goodwill, trust, integrity, and sound policy. I’ve made my decision and hope you make the same choice.

The members in this chamber will not always agree on everything, and there will be moments of tension and discord. At those difficult moments, do not turn your back and walk away in anger. Instead, come to the table, negotiate in good faith, and help work out the differences.

To the new members who will cast their first vote today, let me give you a piece of advice. It’s the key to success in this body, and it can be summed up in one word – relationships. Get to know your fellow members, develop a foxhole friendship during the legislative battles that are sure to come, always have their back and ask that they always have yours in return.

If you develop these relationships, do your homework on the issues, and ask questions you think are in need of being asked during debates – you will be successful in this body.

I want this quadrennium to be defined by four simple words – Building a better Alabama.

That’s not just a phrase. It’s not just a goal. I want it to be our mission.

Our state is already great in many ways, but we are going to use the next four years to literally build a better Alabama for all of its citizens.

Building a better Alabama means building better roads and better bridges so Alabamians can travel safely and conveniently and businesses can transport their goods without needless delay. Our sister southeastern states have already taken action to address their transportation needs, and we will quickly fall behind them if we do not act now.

Building a better Alabama means building an even better economy with even more jobs and opportunity so every individual who is able to work can work. Alabama already ranks among the nation’s leaders in industrial recruitment and job growth, but I believe we can do even better.

Building a better Alabama means building a better education system so all of our children and grandchildren can reach their full potential and one day compete for high-paying, long-lasting 21st Century jobs.

Building a better Alabama means building a better standard of ethics that embraces commonsense guidelines while ensuring officials who violate the public trust feel the firm hand of justice and the sharp pain of punishment.

The items I have outlined offer us a difficult, complicated, and ambitious mission, but as I look out at all of you today, I am confident it is one we can accomplish together. So let us all agree – Republican and Democrat alike – that the mission to build a better Alabama begins right here, right now, in this chamber.

In closing, let me say that I am a man of faith and grace. I believe each of us has been put in a position of leadership to accomplish God’s will, and each one of us has been chosen for a purpose.

We are here to govern with honor, and we are here to follow the rule of law.

We are here to serve the people of Alabama to the very best of our abilities…so help us God.

Thank you for this honor you have given me today.

Other housekeeping on Tuesday

During the first day of the 2019 organizational session on Tuesday, the House also re-elected Speaker Pro Tem Victor Gaston (R-Mobile) in a bipartisan vote of 84-13. Gaston defeated state Rep. Mary Moore (D-Birmingham).

Then, in a 99-0 vote, the House re-elected Jeff Woodard as clerk.

McCutcheon announced House committee leaders last month.

The speaker is back to work leading the chamber just weeks after being hospitalized with a heart issue while returning home from the legislative orientation session in Montgomery.

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

2 weeks ago

Marsh re-elected as Alabama Senate pro tem

(Del Marsh/Facebook)

MONTGOMERY – Tuesday, the Alabama Senate re-elected President Pro Tempore Del Marsh (R-Anniston) by a vote of 32-0, with Marsh gaining strong bipartisan support from both Republicans and Democrats.

Marsh will serve as pro tem for a third consecutive term and is the only person to serve in the role since Republicans took control of the State Senate in 2010.

In a press release, Marsh noted that despite heavy turnover in the leadership at the state level, the Alabama Senate has been a place that has worked together across party lines to pass legislation that benefited all Alabamians.

“The Senate has worked smoothly over the past several years and I believe today’s bipartisan vote reflects that,” Marsh said. “I am proud of the work we have done to improve the lives of the people we represent and will continue to operate the Senate in that way.”

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He continued, “I would like to thank the body for their confidence and support by reelecting me as Pro Tem of the Alabama Senate. It is an honor to serve the people and the state in this capacity and not something I take lightly.”

Marsh outlined that he is eager to work with great leadership in Montgomery to continue moving Alabama forward.

“I look forward to working with Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed, Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton and all of my colleagues in the Legislature as well as Governor Ivey and Lt. Governor Ainsworth as we tackle the tough issues facing Alabama and continue passing balanced budgets and conservative pro-growth policies that have led to an unprecedented record-setting economy,” Marsh said.

This is the first year of a new quadrennium. Tuesday kicked off the 2019 organizational session of the Alabama Legislature in which the body convenes to elect leadership positions, vote on operating rules and confirm committee assignments.

In November, Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed was unanimously re-elected by the 27 members of the Senate Republican Caucus. In the same meeting, the caucus unanimously nominated Marsh for re-election as Pro Tem.

Marsh has a new chief of staff this session – Derek Trotter.

State Senator Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro) is the new minority leader, having been elected by the Democratic Caucus in December. State Senator Billy Beasley (D-Clayton) is deputy minority leader.

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

2 weeks ago

Del Marsh, Greg Reed discuss infrastructure, composition of the Alabama Senate

Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) and Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed (R-Jasper) recently sat down for a wide-ranging exclusive interview with Yellowhammer News, discussing the 2018 election cycle, the new composition of the Alabama Senate, the upcoming legislative session and everything in between.

In case you missed it, read the first part here. It examines the impressive electoral success that the Senate Republican Caucus experienced in 2018. Marsh and Reed outlined how their strategy was formulated, as well as how it was executed with precision.

The second part of this interview series begins to preview the upcoming session, which will be the first of the new quadrennium.  The organizational session begins on Tuesday, with the regular session kicking off on March 5.

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‘A lot of energy’

With the winds squarely at their backs coming off of historic election successes, Marsh and Reed are excited to continue advancing a conservative, pro-growth legislative agenda that will move Alabama forward.

The two Senate leaders believe that the composition of the chamber is impressive – and not just purely talking about party lines, even though a 27-8 supermajority certainly gives them a blank canvas to work with.

“A lot of great people chose to run, and they’re here and they’re excited and ready to go and do the state’s work. So, Greg and I are pretty excited,” Marsh said.

Reed responded, “We are excited. One statistical topic that I think is interesting for my caucus: We’ve got 27 Republican senators, and of those 27, there’s only four men that have served in this chamber more than eight years.”

Reed advised that with the large amount of newcomers and relative newcomers in the Senate comes “a lot of new ideas” and “a lot of energy.”

And, very importantly as well, there are enough veterans to provide institutional knowledge.

Marsh added, “It also goes to the point that generally every year you see term limit legislation offered, [but] you need to ask yourself, ‘Do you really need term limit legislation when you have this kind of turnover?'”

He continued to say that they had “a good healthy mix” of veteran legislators and fresh faces – Republicans and Democrats alike.

“There’s no two ways about it, you’ve got to have some veterans still there. I think we’ve got a good healthy mix of people based on their time of service. And I think it’s better for the state to have that mix we’ve got, like we have today,” Marsh outlined.

Quality vs. quantity

It is not just the people in the chamber that have Marsh and Reed excited. The state of Alabama has pressing issues that need to be addressed this legislative session, and the Senate leaders are eager to tackle them head on.

When it comes to setting the top of the Senate’s agenda, Marsh explained that prioritizing is key.

“We’re more interested in quality than quantity,” he summarized. “We have some big issues in the state that need to be addressed.”

Marsh added, “We’re going to be very focused on the key, big issues that affect the state in so many ways. I make it very clear [to the members of the Senate] – your issues are important, they’re going to be in the system, but we’re really going to focus and get these things done first.”

Infrastructure

First comes infrastructure when speaking about the “key, big issues.” It is the 2019 legislative session topic talked about most amongst the public right now, and the Senate leaders embrace this.

“We have been studying the infrastructure of the state for months – Senate and House members have been involved, stakeholders from cities, counties, schools – [and] we want to make sure at the end of the day that our roads are as safe as possible for citizens. We want to make sure that we have an advantage in economic development through what we can offer in infrastructure,” Marsh explained.

He continued, “We acknowledge – nobody can argue this – that it has been 26 years since there’s been an increase in revenue for our roads and bridges. 26 years. There was a flat number of a tax created 26 years ago in ’92, it’s not moved. You can’t argue [with the fact] that you have more people on the roads today, getting more miles to the gallon for what they pay into that tax. All of that, the simplest way I can put it, is if you took a job 26 years ago and haven’t had a pay raise, you’d be saying it’s time that something’s got to give.”

Marsh said they were looking at “all the pieces” involved in the infrastructure issue, including the funding formula involved and the revenue challenges brought on by ever-increasing automotive technology.

“At the end of the day, our goal is to make sure we have safe, adequate infrastructure. And we’ve got to ask ourselves, ‘What is it going to take to get there?’ We’ve got to make sure the citizens of this state understand all the facts. And from there, we’ve got to make some decisions,” Marsh summarized.

Reed built on that, saying that infrastructure falls into what he also considers a “holdover” issue – or something that they have been talking about addressing through legislation since at least last session without a solution becoming law. In his view, Governor Kay Ivey being supportive of specific issues will be a big boon to their respective chances of passing, because of her tremendous popularity and electoral mandate.

Reed considers infrastructure one of these issues that Ivey is strongly behind, which only gives him increased confidence of its passage when all is said and done.

“I think her leadership is going to be well respected by the state based on the overwhelming vote that she received from the citizens,” Reed advised. “And I know from having talked to her personally that the infrastructure topic is very important to her. And she recognizes from a safety perspective and an economic growth perspective, just a multitude of reasons, that that’s an issue we’ve got to look at.”

He continued, “How will that solve itself? How will it look? What are all the parts and pieces?”

Those answers, according to Reed, can only be determined through “the legislative process” playing out in March.

What next?

Infrastructure is certainly not the only major issue of 2019, with Marsh singling out education reform as being on par with its scope and importance. He also named sentencing reform as something he expects to be talked about seriously, while not necessarily saying that legislation would be spearheaded by the Senate leadership like infrastructure and education.

Additionally, Reed mentioned the state prison system, ethics reform, healthcare reform and workforce development as other pressing issues that will likely be discussed starting in March. And, of course, the legislature is likely to see a lottery debate.

Education reform will be the focus of the next installment in this interview series. Be on the lookout for Yellowhammer News’ follow-up article on exactly what this will entail.

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

2 weeks ago

AG Steve Marshall calls on new Congress to support border wall funding — ‘Shame on Speaker Pelosi’

(Marshall Campaign)

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall called on the new Congress convening Thursday in Washington to fully fund a border wall to protect Americans and uphold the rule of law.

Marshall also criticized Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who is expected to be elected speaker of the House, for deliberately ignoring border security by pushing a budget plan that funds every remaining federal agency for the balance of Fiscal Year 2019 except for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

“It is the fundamental role of government to provide for the safety and security of its citizens and yet many in Washington, D.C., shirk this basic duty in order to score political points,” Marshall said in a press release. “Shame on them and shame on Speaker Pelosi for turning a blind eye to continued security threats to Americans by refusing to fund a border wall and the vital operations of U.S. Homeland Security.

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He continued, “As Alabama’s Attorney General, I am deeply troubled by the steady stream of dangerous illegal drugs entering my state and the impact it has on our citizens and law enforcement. Drug trafficking, human trafficking and many violent crimes committed in Alabama can be traced to criminal elements crossing our country’s borders and the failure of current efforts to secure our border.

Marshall’s release came after news broke Wednesday that a previously deported illegal immigrant has been charged with first-degree rape of a juvenile in Shelby County. He also referred to other recent prominent crimes linked to border security in Alabama.

“Alabamians were shocked to learn of the brutal murder of a little 13-year-old girl in our state last year by affiliates of the Mexican drug cartel. Tragedy struck South Alabama when a woman riding her bike was hit and killed by an illegal immigrant who fled the scene, knowing that he’d already been deported twice. This week, we learned that a criminal alien previously deported for drug crimes illegally reentered the country—even returning to Alabama where his original crimes were committed—and was charged with the rape of a minor. Where does it end? When does it end? It ends with a border wall as the backbone of a serious and effective border-security strategy that protects Alabamians and all Americans,” Marshall outlined.

The attorney general concluded his statement by once again calling for Congress to fund President Donald Trump’s border wall, which is a term for a proposal that encompasses not just a physical wall, but electronic monitoring, tunnel and air surveillance and personnel as well.

“I call on Speaker Pelosi and all Members of Congress and the U.S. Senate to stand with the American people and law enforcement and fully fund the border wall to enable our hardworking U.S Homeland Security personnel to secure our borders once and for all,” Marshall said.

Marshall has been a vocal advocate for border security since becoming attorney general in early 2017, notably participating in a White House panel on protecting America’s borders in August 2018. For Marshall, the panel discussion focused on addressing border security and how the crime associated with border-related drug trafficking and illegal immigration affects the people of Alabama.

Immediately following this White House panel, Marshall was a special guest at Trump’s ceremony honoring the brave men and women of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

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

3 weeks ago

Neal McCoy to headline Ivey’s Gulf Coast Inaugural Celebration

(Neal McCoy/YouTube)

On Monday, Governor Kay Ivey’s inaugural committee announced that two-time “Entertainer of the Year” award winner Neal McCoy will headline the Gulf Coast Inaugural Celebration on January 12.

With 6 million records sold, platinum recording artist McCoy has released 34 singles, including number one hits “No Doubt About It,” “You Gotta Love That,” “They’re Playing Our Song,” “For a Change” and “Wink.” In addition to three platinum albums, McCoy has a gold album, as well as seven top 10 hits.

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In late 2017, the country music star made waves again with the release of his single, “Take a Knee My Ass.”

Tickets to the Gulf Coast Inaugural Celebration are available to the general public here. In lieu of purchasing a $25 ticket, attendees can opt to bring four children’s books. The books will be donated to the Alabama Literacy Alliance.

In keeping with the theme “Keep Alabama Growing,” Ivey’s inaugural committee is promoting children’s literacy throughout the January inaugural festivities.

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

3 weeks ago

Ivey to reappoint Mendheim to the state Supreme Court

(Office of Governor Kay Ivey)

Governor Kay Ivey has appointed Justice Brad Mendheim to fill the Alabama Supreme Court vacancy that will be created by Justice Tom Parker’s ascension to chief justice, according to a report by Alabama Daily News.

The appointment will be effective January 15, after recently elected justices are sworn into office. Parker recently became the chief justice-elect after defeating Judge Bob Vance, the Democratic nominee, in November’s general election.

Mendheim currently sits on the Supreme Court after being appointed by Ivey as an associate justice in January of this year following the resignation of Justice Glenn Murdock. He then ran for a full term in his current seat but was ultimately defeated by Judge Sarah Stewart in the Republican primary runoff.

Mendheim told Alabama Daily News that he was “humbled” by the confidence the governor has in him to make this second appointment.

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“Serving on the Alabama Supreme Court has been the greatest professional honor of my life, and I look forward to re-joining Justice Parker and my other colleagues on the court in January,” he said.

“Most importantly, I am thankful for the continued support of family and friends across the state,” Mendheim added.

Because of state law on Supreme Court appointments, the seat Mendheim is assuming will be up for election in 2020.

From 2008 to his appointment in January 2018, he served as a circuit judge on the 20th Judicial Circuit (Houston and Henry Counties). Before that, Mendheim served as Houston County district judge from 2001 to 2008. During his time on the bench, the judge presided over more than 300 jury trials. He was appointed to hear over 250 cases in more than 35 Alabama counties by every Alabama Supreme Court chief justice since 2001 and has been recognized annually for accepting more special assignments than any other judge in the Yellowhammer State.

Prior to taking the bench in 2001, Mendheim was in private practice in Dothan and served for more than six years as an assistant district attorney in the 20th Judicial Circuit, where he personally tried more than 120 criminal jury cases. As a judge, he has presided over a large variety of trials, including death penalty cases, felony cases and civil cases. He is a graduate with High Honors from Auburn University and Cumberland School of Law, where he made the Dean’s List.

Mendheim and his wife, Michelle, have been married for more than 23 years. They have three sons. The justice and his family are long-time members of First Baptist Church of Dothan, where he serves as a Sunday School teacher and Deacon.

He is perhaps most well known to the Alabama public for his catchy campaign advertisement from the primary, featuring the slogan, “Send ’em Mendheim.”

Update, 4:00 p.m.: Ivey released a statement on the appointment, as follows:

“After reviewing all of those interested in the position, Justice Mendheim is clearly the most qualified, with impeccable legal credentials and with unquestioned character and integrity. With more than 17 years of judicial experience, Justice Mendheim brings the experience of having served on the Alabama Supreme Court. Every applicant was given appropriate consideration, but Justice Mendheim exceeded them all. I appreciate his previous service to the state of Alabama and know that in this continuing opportunity he will again follow the law and serve with honor.”

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

4 weeks ago

Marsh, Reed discuss strategy behind preventing a ‘blue wave’ in Alabama, voter issues, Trump in wide-ranging interview

Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) and Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed (R-Jasper) recently sat down for a wide-ranging exclusive interview with Yellowhammer News, discussing the 2018 election cycle, the new composition of the Alabama Senate, the upcoming legislative session and everything in between.

The first part of this interview series examines the impressive electoral success that the Senate Republican Caucus experienced this campaign season. Marsh and Reed outlined how their strategy was formulated, as well as how it was executed with precision.

The rest of the series will look at the upcoming session with a focus on the crucial legislative priorities that the two Senate leaders shared.

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Successful cycle – ‘No blue wave in Alabama’

It was a busy day at the Alabama Statehouse last week, with members in Montgomery for orientation. Amidst the excited buzz of legislators old and new, Yellowhammer News joined Marsh and Reed in the pro tem’s seventh-floor conference room, with the two leaders’ schedules already jammed pack almost four months away from the start of the 2019 session.

To start the wall-to-wall conversation, it was important to understand how the Senate – and its Republican caucus – got to where it is today.

The past quadrennium saw Senate Republicans with a supermajority already – 26 Republicans, one Independent and eight Democrats filled the chamber. However, after picking off the formerly Independent seat with Senator Donnie Chesteen’s (R-Geneva) election and holding off significant Democratic challenges elsewhere, the caucus is stronger than ever.

This historic feat did not happen overnight. As Marsh and Reed explained, a lot of planning, expertise and hard work went into the 2018 election cycle.

This started with the primaries that occurred in the spring, with the strategy and groundwork ahead of these really beginning in early 2017. Marsh outlined that, initially, Reed focused on supporting their incumbents in the primaries, while Marsh looked at the open seats that would be in play – whether that be through turnover or like the Wiregrass seat that was a pickup opportunity.

The blueprint they used in 2018 was built off of already-proven success.

“[W]here we’ve had success, in fact if you look at the policies since Republicans have been in charge and the things that have been accomplished in the state, including this great economy, a large part of that is because we went out and recruited candidates, made sure people were ready and willing to serve the state of Alabama, made sure they were able to raise dollars. And it was no different this time,” Marsh outlined.

At the end of the day, their mission was accomplished this cycle. Marsh reminisced on an initial planning meeting that he and Reed hosted before the cycle got underway.

“I remember sitting in front of my colleagues and saying, ‘My goal is to have 27 Republicans [in the Senate]. I think that’s what we should have based on this state.’ And by golly, we had 27 [after the election],” Marsh said.

He continued, “And, so if you look at the talk that was out there of a ‘blue wave,’ I think that it was made pretty clear that there was no blue wave in Alabama. People are happy with what the Republicans are doing, and they’re going to continue to be happy because we continue to bring good people down here to do the work of the state.”

The strategy

With the end result in mind, Reed began to advise on how they got there.

“I think some of the tactical pieces, to go along with what the Pro Tem said, were very important,” Reed outlined. “When you begin to look at the process and how it evolved, we tried to understand early on what the different members were doing. A lot of times, if people are looking at running or not running and those kinds of things, we worked to understand that as early in the process as we could.”

He explained that it was important to know who was running where to map out the allocation of resources and ensure that the Caucus was on track to hit the final goal of 27 members. It also helped in the long run that in many of the open seats, the primaries featured multiple candidates of “high-quality.”

“We wound up in the primary with what was a really good team. Of that 27, then you wound up with 14 of those 27 that had some kind of opposition in the general election, whether it was an Independent or a Democrat,” Reed advised.

He continued, “Then, we began to assess – looking at who were going to be the members, for whatever reason, based on their location, based on the votes in the past, based on who their opponent was going to be – and try to come up with a short list of those 14 who were going to be those that were the most vulnerable and [decide] how do we allocate our resources and our focus from top to bottom.”

With the encouragement of Marsh and Reed, all of the Republican candidates ran and worked hard. Through the leaders’ work in the background to assist the most vulnerable campaigns with much-needed resources, the funding and data were there to enable victory.

“We had some good help from different folks that were working within the campaigns,” Reed added. “You had some very capable campaign managers that we worked with closely. We had some different folks that worked with us across the board and worked with me as leader to try and help us understand, with some polling and some other things, where our focus needed to be.”

Driving the vote

While having a winning electoral strategy is always important, the only poll that matters is on Election Day. On top of all of their planning and allocation of resources, Marsh and Reed put an impetus on targeting likely Republican voters and encouraging them to exercise their right to vote.

“As we then narrowed into the election, there was a process really that was led by Senator Marsh – he and I worked on it together – that was an effort to try and work on getting out the vote,” Reed shared. “Recognizing in Alabama, that if you had the opportunity for a larger vote and you had an opportunity to get those folks to the polls, there are more of them that are Republican that not.”

Reed said Marsh “had a detailed plan” to increase turnout in conservative-leaning areas across the state and that the Republican Caucus members “bought into” this plan through the legwork of their own campaigns.

“I think the plan worked very well,” Reed remarked.

“It was aggressive, it was a plan that was focused more on just some traditional, ‘Hey, let’s do a poll and see where we are.’ This had elements of modeling and elements of much more deep data analysis that had a lot more to it to help us have much more definitive information on where we put our resources. I think it worked really well across the state,” the majority leader continued.

Marsh explained that the “bottom goal” of that plan was to get out the vote after the primaries were over.

“It’s getting out the Republican vote,” Marsh emphasized. “Our goal, as [Reed] said, through typical tactics you use plus the use of analytics, we had a whole new arena of people that we knew would vote Republican if we could get them to the polls. And we had a very aggressive campaign to do that, and I think you – the stats are already out – you look at the straight ticket voters in the state this past election, the beauty of that is we knew it would help our Senate candidates, but we also knew if you’re talking straight ticket voters, it helps every House candidate, it helps every statewide candidate – everybody benefited from that group of people we identified to get to the polls that would vote straight ticket.”

The issues on voters’ minds

While Alabamians in part were voting to continue the proven pro-growth, conservative leadership that Republicans have brought to Montgomery, there were hot button and wedge issues that drove people to the polls, too.

Obviously, this differed district-by-district, with divergent demographics and local wants and needs factoring in. However, some things stood out across the Yellowhammer State in the Senate Republican Caucus’ data analysis.

“It is different [by district], but based on the analytics – and it’s based on buying patterns and other data that’s obtained – you were able to literally send an individual mail piece to every [potential voter]. You knew who they were, and you knew based on this analytics what their issue was,” Marsh outlined.

He then said that in one district alone, different voters got different mail pieces, strictly depending on data. He gave the example that one individual may have gotten something on Second Amendment rights, while another in the same area received a piece on school choice.

Besides those two issue examples, “small government” and “efficient government” were on voters’ minds.

Marsh and Reed also pointed to the pro-life vs. pro-choice debate being a key driver of turnout, especially with Amendment Two having been featured on the statewide ballot. They added that Amendment One, regarding the display of the Ten Commandments on public property, also helped bring conservative evangelical voters out.

Then, the vocal opposition – backed by huge out-of-state liberal funding – to these popular social stances by Democrats just helped the Republicans even more.

“Through our process, we were able to identify some of that information and know how people felt,” Reed explained. “And, to Senator Marsh’s point, if we understood where they were on a number of those different issues, whatever their hot-buttons were, then being able to encourage them to go to the polls for reasons that were very important to them individually allowed us to wind up with a much higher turnout.”

Trump

Going back to the primaries specifically, Marsh added that anti-incumbency did factor in and was something that Reed and he had to account for. The pro tem attributed this largely to the “Drain the swamp” national political atmosphere spearheaded by President Donald Trump.

After the primaries, this anti-incumbency fervor was not an issue for the Republicans, as the election then tilted on strictly partisan lines for the most part. Yet, when it was Republican vs. Republican back in the spring, established records were not beneficial.

“Once you got through the primaries, then you could draw a real clear line that because these people were here and doing the right things, this economy’s great and do you want to go back the other way, here’s where the Republicans stand, here’s where the Democrats are,” Marsh advised.

He continued, “And the Democrats’ rally cry, literally, was expand Medicaid. We can tell you right now, that’s not the rally cry of Republicans. And so it became real easy after we got through those primaries.”

“But, unfortunately, I think there were people that, and I’ll use an example, there’s no two ways about it: Paul Bussman lost because he was an incumbent and had a good candidate running against him that was well funded,” Marsh said, going back to the primary caveat. “And I’m telling you, any [incumbent] candidate that cycle in a primary that had a good candidate – regardless of how good the economy was and how good the person was- that had money behind them could’ve had a problem because of this anti-establishment message that the Trump team drove home.”

Reed built off of this, saying that in the general election, some of the election results could be chalked up to a referendum on Trump and his presidency, as he remains very popular in Alabama.

“Support of the Trump agenda became a strong focus for many of our candidates,” Reed advised.

Marsh gave the example of the most competitive Senate race, which was between Sen. Larry Stutts (R-Tuscumbia) and Rep. Johnny Mack Morrow (D-Red Bay), with the pro tem saying that the “Trump coattails” factor was probably the difference between Stutts winning and losing.

He stated that their analytics had identified 8,000 more people in that district “that if they voted, they typically didn’t, but if they did they’d vote Republican.”

They were able to turn enough of this block out for Stutts to win an extremely tight battle.

When asked by Yellowhammer News if a similar situation existed in the Senate contest between Republican Andrew Jones and former Democratic Rep. Craig Ford (I-Gadsden), Marsh shared that their analytics and polling had shown that this race, while a “priority,” was not going to be as close as people in Montgomery thought it would be. The results bore their extensive data analysis out, as Jones blew Ford out by a margin of 60.6 percent to 39.2 percent.

This also reinforced their emphasis on straight ticket voting, as Ford ended up bearing all of the negatives of his Democratic past while not benefiting from straight-ticket Democratic votes.

“It was clear delineation,” Reed added of supporting Trump and his agenda in the general election. “At that point, at the end of the election cycle, we had already come through the Brett Kavanaugh issue, there had already been several things that were real focus issues at the federal level, so there was an easy way to draw a delineation between support of the president’s agenda. Whether it’s the Supreme Court, whether it’s infrastructure growth, whether it’s foreign affairs, whatever – supporting that at the state level was something that our Republican candidates could do that the others that were running really were not in a position to do. And, so, in the end, that was a strong topic – if you looked at the different issues that people were really enthusiastic about, if you were the candidate that was supporting the president’s agenda, then that was an important factor for a lot of voters.”

‘Icing on the cake’

Reed and Marsh specified that the Kavanaugh confirmation had been a large, positive spike in voter enthusiasm for Republicans, but that it gradually waned with time as the media coverage stopped and the election drew closer. However, Marsh brought up one very timely issue that certainly did not hurt conservative candidates in Alabama.

“[T]he icing on the cake was the march through Mexico of people approaching the border, which was ongoing every day,” Marsh said, referring to the caravan. “It’s almost like the closer they get to the border, the madder [Republican voters] got. So, there’s no doubt in my mind, that that was the icing on the cake, the end of the perfect storm.”

Speaking further of what solidified their electoral success, Marsh concluded that “between the analytics, the Kavanaugh [confirmation], between the march through Mexico, all that created a perfect day and allowed [the Senate Republican Caucus] to maximize” vote totals.

“And truly maximize,” Marsh added. “We won every single race we expected to win in the Senate. … It was the total defeat and collapse of this so-called Blue Wave.”

Reed stressed that their “long-term focus” paid off during the elections with “a clean sweep.” Now, the two Senate leaders will look to carry this momentum into the coming legislative session and quadrennium.

Be on the lookout for Yellowhammer News’ follow-up articles on what this will entail.

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