6 months ago

Four key events leading to passage of ‘Rebuild Alabama’

Most big legislative battles involve a series of significant events taking place in the days, months and years leading up to the vote.

It can be one event or several events, independent or interconnected. Sometimes there is an important election, a federal mandate, a court decision or a natural disaster to which the legislature needs to respond. For example, the Deepwater Horizon accident and the subsequent federal response brought about a years-long legislative battle on how to distribute the settlement funds.

Other times there exists seemingly routine events no less essential to the legislative process.

Here are four key events leading to the passage of the Rebuild Alabama Act, which included a ten cent per gallon gas tax increase.

Alabama Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh assembles an infrastructure study committee

On November 8, 2017, Marsh brought together a myriad of stakeholders to begin assessing where Alabama stood with its infrastructure revenue and needs. Among those he brought into the discussion were groups representing small businesses, farmers, technology companies, truckers, the fuel industry and many others.

Through a series of open forums occurring throughout the following year, Marsh sought to arm members of the legislature with input from those groups, as well as data and information from the University of Alabama and Auburn University.

Not everyone who participated ended up supporting the measure, but there were few secrets left by the time the bill came up for debate.

President Donald Trump endorses increased funding for infrastructure

Trump’s endorsement of a 25-cent per gallon gas tax increase did not exactly win resounding praise from around the country. In fact, the “Never Trump” crowd seized on it as a way to try to cut into Trump’s popularity with the conservative base. However, it did have the effect of removing radioactivity from Republican conversations about funding for infrastructure.

Trump’s effort to participate in the conversation and at least propose an outline of a plan brought the issue to the forefront in a new and credible way.

The Business Council of Alabama gets a rebuild of its own

On June 18, 2018, Alabama Power’s Mark Crosswhite notified the state’s largest business organization that his company was withdrawing its membership. Crosswhite was demanding change for an organization which had seen its influence and effectiveness diminish significantly.

A one-page letter sent in June 2018 caused a seismic shift throughout Alabama’s business community and brought about a series of actions reordering the business power structure.

Less than six months later, the BCA named Katie Boyd Britt as its new president and Crosswhite’s effort to unite the business community and strengthen its advocacy network was complete. With so many subdivisions of the business community affected by the different elements of the infrastructure package, it is doubtful passage would have been possible had the business community remained in a fractured state.

Governor Kay Ivey grabs hold of the issue — and doesn’t let go

Ivey had frequently spoken about the need to fund infrastructure improvements. However, speculation had centered around the extent to which she would exert her influence to make it happen.

On February 27, Ivey held a press conference on a dilapidated road in Chilton County and declared that her plan to increase the gas tax and “Rebuild Alabama” was her number one priority. She spent the better part of the next two weeks promoting her plan and petitioning lawmakers for their support.

A common theme heard from policy makers was how much time and work Ivey devoted to the issue. Meetings and phone calls with members are said to have been constant. She made it her issue and was relentless in pursuit of its passage.

Ivey ultimately won big.

Honorable mention: Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson endorses the legislation

This event falls squarely within the category of essential symbolism. Stimpson went along with several other mayors in announcing their support for Ivey’s plan. He went so far as to call the plan a “generational opportunity.”

Stimpson’s background is a bit unique as a mayor of a large city, particularly when speaking about legislation involving a tax increase. He is a former chairman of the Alabama Policy Institute, a conservative think tank. He is also a longtime member and leader within the Alabama Forestry Association. Both of those groups voiced opposition to Ivey’s plan in the form in which it passed.

So in certain circles Stimpson’s endorsement had added meaning.

Tim Howe is an owner and editor of Yellowhammer News

13 hours ago

Bradley Byrne campaign announces launch of ‘Farmers for Bradley’ coalition

Bradley Byrne’s campaign for United States Senate announced Friday that key leaders from Alabama’s agriculture community have launched a “Farmers for Bradley” coalition to support Byrne.

Agriculture remains the top industry in Alabama, and we need a Senator who will not only vote right, but who will actually fight tooth and nail to support our farmers, landowners, and agribusinesses,” Byrne said in a statement. “To have such a strong group of agriculture leaders backing our campaign is a real honor and a testament to the hard work we have done over the years to support our Alabama farmers.”

Both State Senator Andrew Jones (R-Centre) and Mark Kaiser from Baldwin County, who lead the coalition, believe Byrne will fight for farmers in the Senate.

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“When I first met Bradley, it was clear he is a fighter,” Jones said. “Agriculture is a very difficult industry with a wide range of challenges, so it is so important we have a U.S. Senator who will work with our farmers and leaders at the state level to make life a little easier.”

Kaiser echoed Jones’ comments and said, “Bradley just gets it when it comes to agriculture. He has taken the time to learn about the various issues impacting Alabama’s agriculture community, and he has used that knowledge to fight for us in Washington. Bradley doesn’t just talk the talk, he walks the walk.”

“Bradley has an impressive record as a champion for Alabama’s farmers,” a press release stated. “From supporting the Farm Bill to cutting bureaucratic red tape, Bradley has always fought to ensure the farm economy remains stable and fair. Bradley plans to continue the fight for farmers by seeking a seat on the Senate Agriculture Committee.”

Kyle Morris also contributes daily to Breitbart News. You can follow him on Twitter @RealKyleMorris.

14 hours ago

Did a police officer go for his gun or not? This is not an appropriate resolution to the Alabama A&M/UNA issue

Last weekend, the Alabama A&M Bulldogs upset the University of North Alabama Lions in a football game that most of you didn’t know even took place by a 31-24 score.

After the game, a series of allegations were made that were pretty serious and require further investigation.

Here are the problems Bulldogs’ head coach Connell Maynor pointed out:

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  • “It ain’t 1959, we don’t have to put up with that type stuff.”
  • Alabama A&M received no free tickets or tickets to sell to the public
  • Alabama A&M player weren’t allowed access to the field prior to two hours before the game
  • Alabama A&M coaches were told to have their credentials hanging around their neck, UNA coaches had theirs around their waist
  • His assistant coaches were not able to use the elevator right away because of fans being given priority
  • “There was too much stuff that went on off the field, behind the scenes that was not professional on their part at all.”
  • “And we were very very disappointed in the way they treated us, in every aspect off the field.”
  • The teams will not play again

And most importantly, according to the Florence Times Daily:

Maynor also alleged an incident occurred in which a police officer put “his hand on his gun” and saying “Did you hear what he said?” during an argument between a coach and security.

Whoa… what?

A police officer put his hand on his weapon during an argument with staff?

Wait.

A police officer put his hand on his weapon during an argument with the staff of a Historically Black College and University at a football game?

Why don’t we know what agency this officer was with?

His name?

The name of the coach involved?

This is a serious allegation and is, no doubt, a racially tinged accusation.

There must be an investigation of this entire situation.

Only, there will not be an investigation. Alabama A&M has made it clear neither the coach nor the school will be commenting further, which is insane.

Alabama A&M’s head coach is alleging some pretty serious stuff, including a police officer going for his gun over a coach’s access to part of a football stadium.

Instead, we got a statement from the two schools that says the following:

“Alabama A&M University and the University of North Alabama are vital educational institutions that serve the North Alabama region and beyond. Both institutions are committed to working collaboratively to advance our respective missions. We are separated by 76 miles; however, we remain united in ensuring the viability of our institutions and the success of our students, faculty, staff, alumni, friends, and programs, both academically and athletically. As part of that collaborative commitment, both universities have been in communication since Monday about the recent UNA-AAMU football game at Braly Stadium to decide what, if any, next steps are necessary. Both institutions are committed to providing a safe, accommodating, friendly, and inclusive environment. We remain dedicated to furthering our relationship and enjoying a bright future, both on and off the field.”

The highlight is this (bold text added for emphasis):

As part of that collaborative commitment, both universities have been in communication since Monday about the recent UNA-AAMU football game at Braly Stadium to decide what, if any, next steps are necessary.

To put it bluntly, that statement is complete garbage.

Was there racism or not?

Was this just normal rivalry stuff?

Was there an effort by the University of North Alabama to behave in a way that Alabama A&M’s coach, staff, and players led to these words by a state employee about another state institution?

Is Coach Maynor lying?

If he is, why is he still employed?

If he is not, why don’t we know what actually happened?

Why is this police officer still on the job?

Shame on everyone involved in this situation, especially the leadership of these universities who have no interest in getting to the bottom of what actually happened.

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

14 hours ago

OIG report: ‘Serious issues,’ possible misuse of taxpayer dollars at Alabama Women’s Business Center locations

The U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) has released a report identifying “serious” material deficiencies with Women’s Business Center, Inc., an Alabama-based recipient of the SBA’s Women’s Business Center (WBC) grant program.

Women’s Business Center, Inc. is responsible for operating two WBCs, located in Mobile and Brewton.

In the course of the OIG’s audit of SBA’s oversight of the nationwide WBC program, Women’s Business Center, Inc. denied OIG auditors access to both coastal Alabama center’s offices and records.

After issuing an administrative subpoena, the SBA OIG uncovered that both WBCs had actually been permanently closed since the fall of 2018 yet were still collecting federal government funds.

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Further violations uncovered by the OIG included inadequately staffing centers, late and unpaid payroll, a major potential conflict of interest and failure to maintain an adequate financial management system and audited financial statements.

The OIG’s report concluded:

We determined that the Recipient has materially violated federal statutes, regulations, and the terms and conditions of its cooperative agreements. Its lack of required financial systems, records, and policies, and inability to pay its obligations, maintain open and available facilities and service hours, and staff its WBCs with full-time program directors indicates serious issues in the Recipient’s ability to operate and fulfill the WBC program requirements. We have deemed the documentation the Recipient has provided to us to be insufficient and incomplete. The Recipient denied access to OIG, an independent, authorized oversight entity, and disregarded governing federal regulations and terms and conditions of its cooperative agreements.

These findings impel SBA to take prompt corrective action to protect taxpayers’ dollars and help to ensure the integrity of the WBC program. SBA should pursue actions including, but not limited to, suspension, termination, and nonrenewal of the Recipient’s cooperative agreements, as well as suspension and debarment of the Recipient and its personnel.

In a statement reacting to the OIG report, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), chairman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, said, “The gross lack of oversight uncovered in the SBA OIG’s most recent management advisory is incredibly troubling.”

“SBA must take action to remedy the numerous deficiencies identified and enact the Office of Inspector General’s recommendations immediately,” he added. “I appreciate the Office of the Inspector General’s diligence in this matter and look forward to its swift resolution.”

Read the OIG report here.

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

15 hours ago

Ivey back in Montgomery after outpatient procedure ‘went well and as planned’

Governor Kay Ivey on Friday underwent an initial outpatient procedure at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) for early-stage lung cancer.

This followed her Thursday announcement that disclosed the next day’s procedure and radiation treatments to follow.

In a statement, Ivey’s press secretary, Gina Maiola, said, “The governor’s outpatient procedure today at UAB went well and as planned.”

“She is back in Montgomery and looks forward to returning to her regular schedule next week,” Maiola concluded.

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RELATED: Support pours in after Ivey announces cancer diagnosis — ‘No step too high for a high-stepper’

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

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