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5 days ago

Alabama lawmaker, two others plead not guilty in corruption case

An Alabama lawmaker, a lobbyist and a medical company executive on Wednesday pleaded not guilty in federal court to conspiracy and other charges related to 2016 health care legislation.

State Rep. Randy Davis of Daphne, former Alabama Republican Party Chairman Marty Connors and G. Ford Gilbert of California entered not guilty pleas Wednesday morning in federal court in Montgomery.Federal prosecutors have charged the trio in what they described as a Statehouse scheme to pressure the state’s largest insurance company, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama, to cover diabetes treatments at Gilbert’s Trina Health clinics.

Prosecutors said that Gilbert paid former Majority Leader Micky Hammon to work behind the scenes to push legislation that would mandate coverage of the treatments.

Prosecutors said Davis lobbied the insurance company to cover the treatments, and spoke in favor of a bill to mandate the coverage, even though he had received finder’s fees for recruiting investors to Trina.

Gilbert, Davis and Connors, who worked as a lobbyist on the bill, are charged with conspiracy to commit bribery. Gilbert also faces bribery and fraud charges.

The defendants have denied wrongdoing.

Gilbert’s attorney Richard Jaffe said after the court appearance that Ford was “never about the money” but wanted to help people in a state with a high rate of diabetes.

Connors and Gilbert previously pleaded not guilty. They had to return for a new arraignment after new charges were announced related to Davis.

A fourth defendant in the case, state Rep. Jack Williams of Vestavia Hills, is applying for pretrial diversion, his attorney told U.S. Magistrate Judge Terry Moorer on Wednesday.

Williams could avoid trial if accepted into the program.

In a separate case, another lawmaker also pleaded not guilty to charges that he paid kickbacks to a doctor’s office that that referred patients to his company for chronic care management.

State Rep. Ed Henry entered the not guilty plea Wednesday in Montgomery federal court.

Henry’s attorney, Max Pulliam has said that that Henry’s company provided legitimate services that improved patients’ health “and he actually saved the taxpayers money.”
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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2 mins ago

Liberal heckler hurls object, expletives at Doug Jones — Jones says ‘there’s just as many people passionate on the other side’

After a liberal heckler hurled an object and expletives at Sen. Doug Jones at a town hall Monday, Alabama’s junior senator compared the incident, which ended with police officers hauling the agitator out, to peaceful conservative efforts to persuade Jones to vote to confirm President Trump’s nominee Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

AL.com’s Howard Koplowitz reported that Jones indicated at the town hall that “conservatives in the state are trying to apply the same pressure on him as the woman at the Birmingham event,” referring to the protester.

Jones said, “There’s just as many people passionate on the other side, so that doesn’t make it real easy.”

While the pressure on Jones from the left has stooped to this kind of antic, conservative efforts have all been peaceful and respectful to this point. They are backed by the fact that a majority of Alabamians polled support Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

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The Judicial Crisis Network’s massive ad buy has been flooding Alabama’s airwaves since July 9, and the NRA started their own ambitious television campaign last week.

Concerned Women for America, a Christian women’s organization, is also focusing grassroots efforts on the state.

Sen. Richard Shelby voiced his strong support for Kavanaugh’s confirmation after meeting with him recently, but Jones remains undecided.

“Senator Doug Jones’ inability to make a decision on casting an Alabama vote for Judge Kavanaugh is disconcerting,” Alabama Republican Party Chair Terry Lathan told Yellowhammer News.

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

11 mins ago

Arab High School to dump ‘Dixie’ tradition at football games

A rural Alabama high school is ending its tradition of playing “Dixie” at football games.

John Mullins, superintendent of city schools in Arab, said he made the decision to quit playing the song at Arab (AY-rab) High School, but not because of any “external pressure.”

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Leaders in the educational system and the school board have talked for months about dropping the song, he said, and local news outlets reported in June that the longtime band director was retiring.

“While I fully understand the difficulty of changing a tradition, the song has negative connotations that contradict our school district’s core values of unity, integrity, and relationships,” Mullins said in a statement reported by WHNT-TV.

School bands throughout the South used to play “Dixie,” but the practice ended as the region got further away from legalized racial segregation.

The Arab High School Band has played “Dixie” after touchdowns for decades.

Students and staff at the school will vote on a new fight song after this football season.

In the meantime, the band will play an instrumental soul song that’s popular among marching bands, “The Horse.”

Census statistics show the town of about 8,200 people, located in northeastern Alabama, is more than 96 percent white.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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Rep. Byrne: ‘Great value’ found in traveling around district, speaking with local leaders

Each August, the House of Representatives typically enters a period of recess known as the August District Work Period. This is time set aside for Members of Congress to travel across their home districts visiting with the people they represent.

For me, this is incredibly valuable time that I can spend listening to my constituents and gaining a better understanding of the issues impacting our area. Here is just a quick highlight of my August District Work Period so far.

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As you probably already know, I love to hold town hall meetings throughout the First District to hear directly from the people I represent. This August, I am holding a “Better Off Now” Town Hall Tour with twelve stops in all six counties that make up the First District. So far, we have held town hall meetings in Salipta, Atmore, Brewton, Dauphin Island, Millry, Citronelle and Mobile. Later this month, we will make stops in Grand Bay, Monroeville, Seminole, Loxley and Spanish Fort. You can get all the details about the town halls online at Byrne.House.Gov/BetterOffTour.

Visiting local businesses and talking with employees is another priority for me in August. For example, I have already visited Olin in McIntosh, the Louisiana Pacific facility in Clarke County, Serda Brewing in Mobile, and Metal Shark Boats and Master Marine in Bayou La Batre, just to name a few. The visits help me learn firsthand how federal issues are directly impacting employers and employees in Southwest Alabama.

A really special opportunity was being able to ride along with UPS to help deliver packages on the Eastern Shore. I dressed up in the full UPS uniform, rode in the truck, and personally delivered packages. It really helped to step in the driver’s shoes and see the difficult work they do every day. I am especially grateful to Chris Dorgan for showing me the ropes.

Just last week, I hosted Chris Oliver, NOAA Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, down on Dauphin Island for a Red Snapper research trip. As one of the leading federal officials responsible for our fisheries, I welcomed the opportunity to show off the health of the Red Snapper stock in the Gulf, as well as the very impressive research being done locally by the University of South Alabama and the Dauphin Island Sea Lab.

Also last week, I traveled to the Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System in Biloxi to meet with the director and get an update on services for our veterans. As you may know, the Biloxi VA oversees most of our local VA facilities. It was a productive visit as I work to hold the VA accountable and ensure our veterans receive the care they deserve.

We had the annual Women’s Forum in downtown Mobile, which is organized by the Community Foundation of South Alabama. We had another outstanding crowd as local women had the opportunity to network and hear from speakers and panelists about issues important to them.

I find great value in holding roundtable discussions to hear directly from leaders about specific issues. With this in mind, we held separate roundtables with local school superintendents, economic developers from our area, and community leaders from Chatom. Each of these roundtables were very informative, and we have more scheduled later this month.

As you can probably tell, this August District Work Period has already been a huge success. The good news is that we are just getting started. I look forward to spending more time around Southwest Alabama throughout August to help me be the best Congressman possible.

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

2 hours ago

Advice for the Wiregrass: If you want an Interstate highway before the automobile is obsolete, start a full-court press immediately

One of the hot-stove topics making its way around Alabama is the possibility of a new east-west Interstate highway through the center of Alabama.

The proposal is what people are calling “Interstate 14,” which would run parallel with U.S. Highway 80, crossing into Alabama from the east in Phenix City and passing by Tuskegee, Montgomery, Selma, Demopolis and exiting Alabama to the west on the way to Meridian, Miss.

There are already parts of it in place along U.S. Highway 80, near Phenix City and Montgomery. But the idea is that it could supplement Interstate 20 to the north by offering an alternate route that would avoid congestion in Atlanta and Birmingham and connect Columbus, Ga. to the Interstate highway system beyond the existing I-185 spur.

Earlier this month, Dothan Mayor Mark Saliba cried foul over the current proposal, which has the route passing Dothan to the north by 100 miles.

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“We feel like we have been cut out for many decades, it has hurt us, we have grown a great city but we need an interstate this way before those in the middle of the state do,” Saliba said of the I-14 proposal in an interview with Alabama Media Group.

It’s hard to see where an east-west Interstate highway through the Wiregrass would go. If such a route were proposed, it would probably follow U.S. Highway 84. But in 2018, is there any demand for a new route connecting Dothan, Enterprise, Elba, Opp, Andalusia, Evergreen, Monroeville and Grove Hill beyond what is already in place?

Probably not.

That’s why the route the Wiregrass needs is a north-south route.

If anyone has ever made a trip from Alabama to the Florida beaches between Apalachicola and Fort Walton Beach, at any point along the way, perhaps making your way through one of the various one-light speed traps along U.S. Highways 231 or 331, you thought, “Wouldn’t it be great to be on an Interstate highway right now?”

The proposal gaining traction is an Interstate spur connecting Dothan and/or Enterprise to Interstate 10 32 miles to the south in Florida. Interstate 10 is a major east-west thoroughfare that starts in Jacksonville, Fla. and ends in Los Angeles.

“One of the things they’re pitching is that this has already been planned out, the money has already been spent, and that needs to be our strategy with the I-10 connector,” Enterprise City Councilman Turner Townsend said to The Enterprise Ledger’s Leah Lancaster in an interview published on Tuesday. There was a study done and there was a route ticked out. I think we need to (stay with) the I-10 connector, because practically speaking I don’t see them putting an east/west interstate through Enterprise.”

Even if you can get beyond the endless bureaucracy and favoritism politics of the Alabama Department of Transportation and its 50-year backlog of highway projects, the next problem to overcome with such a proposal would be getting cooperation from the Florida Department of Transportation.

If you consider the transportation needs in Florida include the metropolises of Orlando, Tampa, Miami, Jacksonville, etc., elected leaders in southeastern Alabama probably should have started yesterday working with Florida officials in the Panhandle if they want to see an I-10 connector in their lifetimes.

Unfortunately for the bigger cities in the Wiregrass, they’re a victim of geography. To many of our statewide political leaders, places like Dothan, Enterprise, Ozark, Elba, Opp, and Andalusia are so far removed from the Montgomery-Birmingham-Huntsville corridor that they might as well be in Florida.

Even with some very favorable circumstances in the Congress that made funding available, it took nearly 40 years for Corridor X (now Interstate 22) that connects Memphis and Birmingham to be completed.

The takeaway of that is the Mississippi portion was completed decades before the Alabama portion. If that’s a model for what people in the Wiregrass should expect from ALDOT, promote the project early and promote it often if you want such a route completed before the automobile is obsolete.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and is the editor of Breitbart TV.

West AlabamaWorks! is bridging the gap between workforce And industry

The workforce in West Alabama is changing with the help of West AlabamaWorks! They want to let people in the workforce know that being in healthcare does not strictly mean you are just a doctor or a nurse. There are hundreds of other job opportunities out there in hospitals, doctors offices, and insurance. Peggy Sease is Vice President of Human Resources and shares how her experience has led her to the position to work between the workforce and employers. The same goes for Lori Royer, HR Director, as she tells us what the industry is searching for in future candidates: attendance, diligent in all your duties, and have critical thinking skills. Our state has so many talented people, and Lori and Peggy are shrinking the gap between workforce and the industry with West AlabamaWorks!

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