8 months ago

Connie Rowe is a 2019 Woman of Impact

A woman of faith. A great friend, wife and mother. A powerful legislator. A career law enforcement officer. A trailblazer.

Rep. Connie Rowe (R-Jasper) is many things to many different people around Alabama.

However, throughout all of her roles and responsibilities, intertwined with a multitude of exemplary traits, is the unmistakable fact that Rowe is a leader.

Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon (R- Monrovia) remarked to Yellowhammer News, “From her first moments as a member of the Alabama House, Rep. Connie Rowe set herself apart as a leader and as someone whose words would be respected and appreciated by her colleagues. Those same leadership skills allowed her to become the first female police chief in Jasper, Alabama.”

‘Challenges? I think all people face challenges’

Rowe is also someone who embraces challenges and has turned the hurdles that come with being a woman in a historically male career field into opportunities, shattering glass ceilings at every step along the way.

“Challenges? I think all people face challenges in their career paths. Your male colleagues are also subject to the pace and progressiveness of your leadership,” she told Yellowhammer News when asked about some unique obstacles that she has faced in leadership.

Advising that there undoubtedly “are some challenges unique to women working in male-dominated fields like law enforcement and in the political arena,” she shared her outlook on dealing with them.

“In 1984 when I joined Jasper Police Department as a nightshift Patrol Officer, my training officer informed me I had been assigned to him because none of the other seasoned officers wanted to deal with a 21-year-old female rookie,” Rowe reminisced. “He used that circumstance to challenge himself and motivate me. It worked in a positive way for both of us. I acknowledged him the day I was sworn in as Chief of Police for the City of Jasper.”

From a rookie officer no one wanted as a partner to becoming the City of Jasper’s first ever female police chief in 2011, Rowe has come a long way. It was not easy, but with her mentality and trademark toughness, the sky has always been the limit for her ascent.

However, even after she reached the top of her profession, Rowe still had naysayers when running for the Alabama House of Representatives for the first time in 2014.

She said, “Thirty years later on a Saturday morning in 2014, I was campaigning in a rural community for my first election to the House of Representatives and experienced similar sentiment. I approached an older gentleman at a curb market and gave him my best campaign pitch. I kept talking hoping I could change the blank expression on his face. When I finally ran out of words, he continued to stare for a moment then shared with me his vision of where I should be and what I should be worried about.”

“Bless him,” Rowe continued. “He’s somewhere being him, and I’m in Montgomery being me. Again, it worked out well for us both.”

“The point of sharing both of those situations is that they are understandable when a woman emerges in a new arena and that they did not deter me from moving forward,” she emphasized.

Making history time after time

Rowe is proud of some of the “firsts” she has been able to achieve in the state, humbly adding, “I’ve been fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time to hold some first female posts. I’m grateful for those opportunities.”

In addition to her Jasper Police Department trailblazing, Rowe was the first female investigator to ever serve the Walker County District Attorney’s Office (14th Judicial Circuit), doing so from 1988-2010.

Then, her election to serve the citizens of House District Thirteen in 2014 broke down another barrier, as did her election as vice chair of the Alabama House Republican Caucus in 2016, which made her the first female in state history to hold a GOP caucus-elected leadership position.

McCutcheon advised, “The respect and admiration that Rep. Rowe commands from her fellow Republicans is evidenced by the fact that she was elected to serve as vice chair of the House Republican Caucus while still a freshman member.”

Perhaps what makes her most proud is the knowledge that more young women will see these types of opportunities as real possibilities for themselves.

Rowe said, “Seeing a woman do something that historically has only been done by a man unlocks that role in the mind of all watching.”

‘A public servant who cares deeply about her constituents’

In the legislature, Rowe – in addition to continuing her service as GOP caucus vice chair – is the vice chair of both the powerful House Rules Committee and the House Military and Veterans Affairs Committee. She also holds seats on the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee, the House State Government Committee and the House Internal Affairs Committee, which is responsible for disciplining members who violate chamber rules and handling other matters related to the body’s operations.

Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth (R-AL) told Yellowhammer News, “I first came to know Connie Rowe when we served together in the Alabama House, and it has been my honor to bear firsthand witness to her effectiveness as a lawmaker and as a public servant who cares deeply about her constituents.”

One of her biggest lasting legacies in the legislature, Ainsworth said, will be that Rowe “passed landmark legislation that makes it easier for military veterans to gain employment.”

Indeed, her time serving the public has been marked with numerous tangible accomplishments that advanced the safety and wellbeing of the community, both in the state house and in law enforcement.

Ainsworth extolled her “efforts to combat crime, protect the public, and uphold the law,” while highlighting her “tireless” advocacy for victims.

At the end of the day, Rowe said, “I think Jasper Police Department was in better shape the day I left than what I found the day I walked into the building.”

“We developed a well-trained Critical Incident Response Team following Sandy Hook that included deep involvement with the local school system. Another contributing circumstance is that I was also able to prepare and present a case on one of my officers that resulted in his federal prosecution. That resolution eliminated an element of corruption that existed within the department before my tenure began,” she outlined.

Rowe has also been a leading authority on domestic violence related-crimes for decades.

She explained, “Earlier in my law enforcement career, I authored and developed a domestic violence curriculum that is used in all law enforcement academies in the state. From 1988 until 2010, I conducted law enforcement trainings in the public law enforcement academies as well as regional trainings in the subject areas of DV, Sex Crimes and Crime Victims Rights on behalf of the Alabama Peace Officers and Training Commission and the Alabama Coalition Against Domestic Violence.”

‘What a wonderful world this would be’

Perhaps the most personally rewarding part of her career journey has been positively influencing those around her, Rowe said.

“Leadership roles give you opportunities to impact the path of others,” she advised. “I think the most important leadership responsibility is to help the people around you develop to their greatest potential. I’ve had that experience while leading a police department and as an elected official. Grabbing the hand of another person and hoisting them up in this world is rewarding. If we all did that continuously, what a wonderful world this would be.”

McCutcheon reflected, “There is no doubt that Connie Rowe is a ‘woman of impact’ because I know she has positively impacted my life and the lives of all of those around her.  She is most definitely deserving of this fine honor.”

And, with all that she has done and continues to do in the public sphere, Rowe has always had her priorities straight: Faith, family and friends.

“I am proud to know Connie Rowe and am humbled to be her friend because she truly personifies the words in Matthew 5:16, which read, ‘…let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven,’” Ainsworth lauded.

“Without a doubt,” Rowe said, her biggest accomplishment in life, “is bringing a child into this world.”

“The miraculous way in which children come into our lives and the responsibility we bear in raising them in this world are, to me, the most important role we serve in as women,” she added.

To all those aspiring girls out there looking to make their own way as a leader, Rowe offered some powerful advice.

“Don’t let the world define you. Define yourself, because even people who love you may not realize who you are capable of being,” she emphasized. “Remember that seeking equality doesn’t mean you want to be treated special and specific to your gender. It, in fact, means the exact opposite.”

Rowe concluded, “Leadership is organic for some and a hard fought battle for others. Find your spot and become relevant to what draws your interest. Leaders are essential at every level of a successful process. And finally, rely upon the fact that God has a plan. Lend yourself to it.”

Yellowhammer News is proud to name Connie Rowe a 2019 Woman of Impact.

The 2nd Annual Women of Impact Awards will celebrate the honorees on April 29, 2019, in Birmingham. Event details can be found here.

19 mins ago

Merry and bright: How Regions’ headquarters building lights became a holiday tradition

It’s a tradition that’s now over 40 years strong.

Every year, the Regions Center tower in Birmingham, Alabama, is transformed into a brilliant holiday display – with Christmas trees, a massive wreath and a giant stocking celebrating the season every evening.

The lights are visible for miles – from vistas along Red Mountain, to travelers crossing through town on nearby interstates, and to airline passengers about to land at the airport a few miles to the east.

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“Every year, we’re asked how we do it, and while we’ve made a couple updates over time, the process is still very similar to the way it was in the late 1970s,” explained Emilio Cerice, Senior Vice President of Corporate Real Estate for Regions Bank. “The lighting display didn’t begin until the late 70s, but it turned out, the stage was set for the display about 10 years earlier.”

While the building was under construction between 1968 and 1971, Cerice said a light tube was placed in a small area above each window starting on the fifth floor. Initially, the idea was to light the building in bright white every night. But the energy crisis of the 1970s brought that to an end.

“The history of using the lights as a Christmas display started after the energy crisis was over,” Cerice said. “Back then, the building was owned by First National Bank of Birmingham and a company called Sonat – or Southern Natural Gas. The details have been hard to pinpoint, but it’s been said that a Sonat executive was in Houston and saw a building that used its ‘curtain wall’ design – similar to what we have – for a Christmas display. That executive came back to Birmingham and led the effort to get a display here.”

Over time, the building has gone on to carry the AmSouth name; then, following the 2006 merger of AmSouth and Regions, the Regions name and its updated logo were placed atop the tower. But through it all, the holiday lights have remained.

“It’s something we look forward to every year – and it’s something the city looks forward to,” Cerice said. “In recent years, it’s been fun to watch social media and see people sharing creative photos of the building or sharing their memories of coming downtown to see the lights.”

Preparations for the display get underway around late summer or early fall each year.

“The images are created by placing red and green ‘gel sleeves’ over the white light tubes above each window,” Cerice said. “Crews operate with a grid showing the pattern of the display on each side of the building, and that lets them know which windows need which colors. Then, they change the display in February or March every year to the golfer image that we display during the Regions Tradition golf tournament. That one uses some different shades of green, as well as blue, so there’s a lot of changing and re-changing of the gel sleeves that takes place.”

Testing of the Christmas display takes place during the early morning hours in the days before Thanksgiving. If needed, any corrections are made. Then, at 5pm on the day after Thanksgiving, the display comes to life. It remains illuminated until midnight each evening through Dec. 31.

“If you’re near a window from the fifth floor and up when the display comes on each night, it’s very noticeable,” Cerice said. “A lot of people like to try to figure out where their office is in the tree, or the wreath, or whichever side of the building they’re on. We had a team that moved offices two years ago, and not long after they moved in, they looked at the lights above the windows and tried to figure out, ‘So where are we within the tree here?’ They compared the colors of the lights to a video of the building on YouTube and determined they were almost halfway up the tree in their new offices.”

Besides the holiday display and the golfer, the tower has hosted two other displays.

“In 1991, there was an American flag and the letters ‘USA’ in support of those serving during the Gulf War. Then, in 1996, there was an Olympic torch and the Olympic Rings when Summer Olympic soccer was being played at Legion Field,” Cerice said.

The Regions Center tower rises nearly 400 feet over 5th Avenue North at 20th Street North in downtown Birmingham. Some of the best views are from Birmingham’s Railroad Park, as well as from Vulcan Park on Red Mountain.

“Birmingham is our headquarters city. We’re proud to occupy a prominent spot in the city’s skyline,” Cerice said. “And we’re proud to carry on this tradition.”

(Courtesy of Regions Bank)

You’re invited!

The biggest birthday party in Alabama’s history is taking place on December 14, and you are invited! Join us in Montgomery for the grand finale celebration of our state’s 200th birthday.

Watch the parade, listen to concerts and performances, visit open houses and much more.

This is sure to be a day you don’t want to miss. The event is free to the public and lasts all day starting with an elaborate parade at 10:00 a.m. The parade will travel from Court Square Fountain in downtown Montgomery up Dexter Avenue to the State Capitol. There will be marching bands, city floats and unique displays of Alabama history on wheels, such as the USS Alabama and U.S. Space and Rocket Center.

The parade is a great opportunity for families to enjoy the celebration together – and it’s only the beginning of a packed day. Following the parade, Governor Kay Ivey will dedicate Bicentennial Park. The afternoon will offer performances, exhibitions and open houses throughout downtown Montgomery. The day will conclude with a concert featuring popular musicians from Alabama and the history of Alabama presented in a never-before-seen way.

Visit Alabama 200 Finale for a complete rundown of the day’s events.

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3 hours ago

Nick Saban and Gus Malzahn: What a difference a week makes

Think back for a moment, if you will. Think back to the middle of last week, where all was right in Tuscaloosa and all was, well, on edge in Auburn.

Crimson Tide fans were confident about their team taking care of business in the Iron Bowl and once again watching their beloved head coach lead Bama into the College Football Playoffs. Auburn fans were hoping for the best — after all, the Iron Bowl was at Jordan-Hare Stadium and the Tigers were facing an Alabama team with a back-up quarterback. Still, many of the Auburn faithful had their head coach in mind — a coach, they thought, who could be a goner if he lost to the Tide.

Fast forward to today … whoa!

The coach they call “The GOAT” has been taking heat from national pundits, while Gus Malzahn is off the hot seat and relishing in the fact that he has beaten Nick Saban two of the last three years. Malzahn should be proud, as he’s the only active coach in the SEC who has beaten Saban more than once — in fact, Malzahn is 3-4 overall against the Alabama coach.

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Why the criticism of the man thought by millions to be the greatest coach in college football history?

Some national media talking heads feel the Nick Saban dynasty is starting to crumble. ESPN’s Paul Finebaum has been very critical of the coach on the network’s many platforms this week. Now, before you scream to yourself, “Who cares what that scrawny pencil-necked geek who has never played a down of football thinks?” I’m here to tell you that skinny Finebaum carries a lot of weight. His opinions are often peppered with inside info and truths that indeed pan out.

So, buy into Paul’s statements or discard them completely if you must, but here is what Finebaum said on ESPN: “We’re not saying that Saban is done, but we’re saying that this dynasty’s window is closing. It’s been a really disappointing season. He’s lost two of the last three to Clemson and now he’s lost two of the last three to Auburn. … He promised after a 28-point loss to Clemson that the Alabama factor would be re-established. Has anyone seen it? There’s no discipline … defense is where the problem is. The team against the last three top-20 opponents has given up 44, 46 and 48 points. That’s not the Alabama team I’m accustomed to.”

Paul certainly raises some good points. Perhaps you can liken the situation to fishing: when I catch a fish, I consider it luck; when I catch two fish very quickly, I consider it a pattern. Is there a pattern to Alabama’s recent setbacks? One pattern? To Paul’s point: against the last four top-20 opponents, the Crimson Tide defense has surrendered 34 points (Oklahoma), 44 points (Clemson), 46 points (LSU) and 48 points (Auburn). Does this mean the Bama dynasty is ending? Well, not so fast, Paul!

In our “what have you done for me lately?” world, let’s discuss what Nick Saban has done lately — say, over the last five years. Over that span, Saban is 65-6 — he’s played in four national championship games and won two of them. In fact, he’s won five of the last 10. This season is actually the first time since the playoffs began six years ago that Bama has failed to make the playoffs. It’s also the first time in six years that Bama has lost more than one game. Like I told a Bama fan the other day: “Man, you people lose two games and you want to drive your car into a ditch.”

Where Finebaum sees a pattern, I see a single football season that saw the Crimson Tide lose two games by a total of eight points — that as injuries plagued the team, from the pre-season departure of Dylan Moses to the departure a few weeks ago of Tua Tagovailoa. Are you a Bama fan? Sleep well tonight, because your team, and your coach, are just fine.

Now on to Gus Malzahn, a man who falling asleep doesn’t count sheep but rather counts X’s and O’s. The coach’s mind is full of more knowledge than you can imagine: a self-professed football nerd, if this man was your 8th-grade classmate, you’d be asking him if he could take your algebra test for you.

So how does this quiet and at times aloof head coach keep getting off the mat just when you think his days are numbered? With drive, with brilliance and with some Jordan-Hare Stadium magic, where he has beaten Saban in three of the last four meetings at home. When the Iron Bowl is played at Jordan-Hare Stadium, anything can, and usually does, happen. Example: 2013? The Prayer in Jordan-Hare followed by the Kick Six. 2017? Just when the heat was on, Malzahn beat Georgia and then Bama to grab a spot in the SEC Championship Game. And 2019? How about a pair of pick-sixes, an effective offense that we have not seen this season and a spot-on field goal kicker?

For all of Gus Malzahn’s critics, the blue-collar, “us against the world coach” comes up big just when he needs it most. And while those critics point to Malzahn’s predictable play-calling, his refusal to change his offensive philosophy and his smoke and mirror formations which they say mask a talent base that is not up to snuff, Malzahn continues to walk his fans back from the ledge with clutch victories.

Auburn fans will tell you that watching football can be harmful to the heart because the team’s ups and downs certainly mess with the blood pressure. But after a win like Tiger fans witnessed last weekend, they’ll take it, and look forward to the next game that the Tigers play. And their coach? Let Saban eat at Ruth’s Chris, Gus eats at Waffle House.

Who’da thunk it? Nick Saban knocked off his throne, while Gus Malzahn wears the Iron Bowl crown. What’s next? Bowl games for both teams and then preparations for the 2020 college football season. What’s on tap for next season? If you root for Bama, I wouldn’t count on the team’s success drying up. And if you root for Auburn? That team’s success is not drying up, but rather warming up.

I’m not sure what we will see from these coaches next season, but I do know this about 2019: what a difference a week makes!

Rick Karle is a 24-time Emmy winning broadcaster and a special sports contributor to Yellowhammer News. He is also the host of the Huts and Nuts podcast.

4 hours ago

7 Things: Impeachment hearings go on, Sessions destroys Harris, Buttigieg keeps searching for black votes in Alabama and more …

7. We are back to Russia, apparently

  • The impeachment hearings started up again, and now it looks like the House Judiciary Committee Democrats are going to try and include the Mueller report in the ongoing impeachment inquiry.
  • Until now, the impeachment inquiry has just focused on President Donald Trump’s interactions with Ukraine, but House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) has now said, “President Donald Trump welcomed foreign interference in the 2016 election, and demanded it for the 2020 election.” This just seems to open the door for the Democrats to include another investigation that failed to bring a conviction.

6. Brooks praises food stamp changes

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  • U.S. Representative Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) applauded the Trump administration tightening work requirements for people receiving food stamps and making it harder for states to waive work requirements for able-bodied individuals — a plan that will save $5.5 billion dollars over five years.
  • Brooks said in a statement, “I fully support the Trump Administration’s efforts to bar able-bodied, working age Americans from receiving food stamps, SNAP, or any other food benefits they can and should be paying for with money they earn themselves.”

5. Executions coming back?

  • In a brief filed with the Supreme Court, Alabama and 13 other states are advocating for President Donald Trump’s plan to bring back federal executions, which came after the Justice Department requested that the Supreme Court allow the first execution in 17 years.
  • The DOJ wants to carry out the execution using a new process, as opposed to a three-drug cocktail that was previously used because of lawsuits by murderers and their advocates that the process is “cruel and unusual.”

4. Byrne highlights how illegal immigration is harming children

  • During a Democrat hearing called, “Growing Up in Fear: How the Trump Administration’s Immigration Policies Are Harming Children,” U.S. Representative Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) made the point that not enforcing immigration laws harms Americans and specifically children.
  • Byrne also confronted his colleagues about the cost of illegal immigration to America’s schools, which they had no response to, and criticized them for attacking President Donald Trump for enforcing current immigration law.

3. Buttigieg’s pandering tour of Alabama continues

  • South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg visited Birmingham to meet with Birmingham leaders, including Mayor Randall Woodfin, and he discussed immigration and raising the minimum wage.
  • Buttigieg made it clear that he supports raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour, but then he went on to discuss immigration and his visa program to increase immigration, saying “If we want population growth in rural America, let’s welcome new Americans.”

2. Sessions finishes off Harris

  • Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions mocked U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) for ending her 2020 Democratic presidential campaign. Recently, she had made headlines for asking her supporters to donate to U.S. Senator Doug Jones’ (D-AL) reelection campaign, saying that she “fought Jeff Sessions every step of the way, voting against his nomination as Attorney General and calling for his resignation when it became clear he lied under oath to protect the President.”
  • When she announced her campaign was ending, Sessions appeared on Fox News where he discussed the issue, saying that Harris claimed some of her “great achievements was to stand up to Jeff Sessions, Brett Kavanaugh, Attorney General Barr and President Trump.” He added, Well, she’s 0 for 4. All four of them are still standing – and she’s out.”

1. A hearing with constitutional law professors will surely move the needle

  • The latest round of impeachment hearings took place in Washington, D.C. with four constitutional law professors testifying before Congress on the matter of impeachment. There were three Democrat witnesses and one Republican witness in the hearing that went on all day and convinced absolutely no one to change their mind.
  • The Democrats’ witnesses insisted that impeachment was necessary, while the Republican witness made the point that moving forward with impeachment given the current facts will only lower the bar for future impeachments.

6 hours ago

Byrne: ‘Illegal immigration is harming our students, teachers and communities’

Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01) on Wednesday spoke during a House Education and Labor Committee hearing centered on immigration.

While Democrats called the hearing, “Growing Up in Fear: How the Trump Administration’s Immigration Policies Are Harming Children,” Byrne argued that not enforcing immigration laws actually harms children born to legal American residents and citizens.

“It is amazing we are here to talk about ‘How the Trump Administration’s Immigration Policies Are Harming Children’ but we never, never talk about how illegal immigration is harming our students, teachers and communities. People who are here legally are being harmed by this,” Byrne said.

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After asking Democrat witnesses about the costs of illegal immigration to our nation’s schools — and apparently stumping them, Byrne criticized Democrats who attacked President Donald Trump for enforcing immigration laws while they themselves did not even ask about the cost of failing to enforce those laws.

The coastal Alabama congressman’s line of questioning highlighted that these costs are borne by states and local school systems and ultimately come at the detriment of students.

Byrne’s full remarks during the hearing as follows:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. In 2016, the Pew Research Center estimated that 3.9 million – or 7.3% – of kindergarten through 12th grade students in the United States were either here illegally or were the children of at least one parent illegally present in the United States.

Can anyone tell me how much we spend on public education for that population of students? It’s around $60 billion.

A significant and increasing percentage of these costs represent remedial English education, required by the federal government for students designated as Limited English Proficiency or LEP. In 2016, it was estimated that 9.6% of all students and 17% of kindergarten students were now designated as LEP. Educating those students is expensive. By some estimations, we are spending $59 billion just on ESL and other programs to help children with English language deficiency.

Can anyone tell me what percentage of teachers in the United States are certified or trained in ESL? It’s about one percent.

How about what percentage of ESL Programs are paid for by the federal government that requires them? Just over 1 percent.

Who pays for the rest? States and local school systems!

So, we require it and we push 99% of the costs on state and local school systems. That costs a lot of money for these state and local school systems. Many of them like my state of Alabama just don’t have it. But because the federal government requires it, they have to put that money in there to the detriment of other programs.

At least 13 states spend over $1 billion per year on limited English proficiency programs in public schools.

Earlier this year, this committee found that there is a $46 billion public school infrastructure shortfall. Accounting for inflation, teacher salaries are down 1.6% since 2000. Classroom sizes are growing. Resources for students are shrinking.

It is amazing we are here to talk about ‘How the Trump Administration’s Immigration Policies Are Harming Children’ but we never, never talk about how illegal immigration is harming our students, teachers and communities. People who are here legally are being harmed by this.

The federal government has mandated that we provide public education to the children of illegal immigrants, but we don’t pay for it! States and local school districts do!

How is that fair? How is that right that we make the requirement here at the federal government and we put up one percent of the cost?

I’m a former state school board member in Alabama. I have sat across from teachers and superintendents and talked to them about this issue. Dollars that our schools have, they are not unlimited. The states don’t print money like we do here in Washington. They have requirements that they balance their budgets. Coming up with the money to fund these K-12 education programs around the country is extremely difficult.

So, I think if we are going to sit here and criticize the president for enforcing the law, we need to also think about the cost of not enforcing the law.

That cost is not being borne by those of us in Washington. It’s being borne by men and women and the states and local school systems around the United States of America. But really the cost is being borne by children who are being denied the programs that they should have. Children who are citizens of the United States, whose parents are citizens of the United States, they’re being denied programs because we’re forcing their state and local school systems to take on an expense that we should be taking on because we’ve failed to enforce our own laws.

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