Governor Kay Ivey responds to 2018 gubernatorial candidate questionnaire

Governor Kay Ivey recently responded to a gubernatorial candidate questionnaire from the Alabama Policy Institute and Yellowhammer News. Her responses are below:

POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY AND PRINCIPLES

Question: What is your political philosophy and, if elected, how would it shape the way you govern?

Ivey: Growing up on the family farm in Wilcox County, I learned to put in a hard day’s work, to live within our means, and the importance of faith, family and community. These are the same values I have carried with me throughout my life.  As a public servant, I have always fought for conservative principles: promoting economic growth, protecting taxpayer dollars, fighting for the unborn, preserving our Second Amendment rights and restoring the people’s trust in government.
How have you demonstrated your commitment to your political philosophy?

When I became Governor, I told you we’d clean up the mess in Montgomery and bring back conservative values—and we have. Immediately upon assuming the role of Governor, I turned over nearly half the cabinet and replaced them with people of integrity. With executive orders, I’ve streamlined state government, shut down unnecessary task forces, and banned lobbyists from appointments by the executive branch.

From my experience as Lieutenant Governor, I understood and prioritized open communications between the Executive and Legislative Branch to make sure we were effectively working together for the people of Alabama – and we did. In only one year, I signed hundreds of bills and resolutions – nearly one for every day I’ve been in office – and now Alabama is working again. But, I’m not done yet.

What is the most important role of the governor?

First and foremost, a Governor should have a vision and plan to promote conservative values, incentivize economic prosperity, improve education, and maintain the trust of the people. As Governor, I have made it my job to make sure you have a job with a good paycheck. Under my leadership, Alabama has created more than 13,000 new jobs, achieved the lowest unemployment rate in Alabama history, and most recently, I signed the largest middle class tax cut in a decade.

What is the most challenging social issue facing families in Alabama? Does government have a role in helping to solve that problem, and if so, what would you propose?

As a pro-life conservative, I believe every life is precious, starting at conception. Throughout my time as a public servant, I have championed policies such as protecting the unborn and preventing the use of taxpayer dollars from paying for abortions.

Alabama has four abortion clinics operating across the state, and Planned Parenthood has announced plans to build a new clinic in downtown Birmingham. How do you feel about these clinics and what would you do as governor about any taxpayer funds they receive?

I have and will always advocate for those who are unable to advocate for themselves. I’m pro-life because God teaches us to love life, and he created us and wants us to love one another, and I will always fight to protect the unborn.

As Governor, I supported President Trump’s action to rollback Obama-era regulations and stop the use of state Medicaid dollars from paying abortion providers. Prohibiting the use of tax dollars for abortions or abortion-related services is just one small step towards saving the unborn.

I am honored to have been recognized for my pro-life record, receiving endorsements for Governor from Alabama Citizens for Life and Susan B. Anthony List, two leading pro-life groups.

EDUCATION

PUBLIC EDUCATION

Alabama is ranked number forty-seven on U.S. News and World Report’s list of Best States for Education, and ranked number 1 in Pre-Kindergarten quality. As far as public education reforms, there have been many suggestions for improvement including increased investment in STEM education, distance learning, and reforming teacher tenure. What reforms would you propose or support to improve public education and prepare Alabama’s children for school success and lifelong learning?

I have an experience in my life that makes me unique among a lot of Governors—I began my career as a teacher. Being a teacher shows you what a school can do, and what an adult in the life of a child can help them achieve.

Alabama needs a comprehensive approach that improves education from Pre-K to the workforce, that’s why I launched “Strong Start, Strong Finish.” The “Strong Start, Strong Finish” education initiative focuses on three stages of education: 1) early childhood education, 2) computer science in middle school and high school, and 3) workforce preparedness. I instituted Strong Start, Strong Finish because we must prepare our people for the jobs of today and for the jobs of tomorrow. By 2020, 62 percent of all jobs available in Alabama will require some form of postsecondary education.  However, today, only 37 percent of our workforce has achieved such an education. We must ensure that our students graduate high school and then earn a postsecondary certificate or degree.

I am also proud of the education budget that I signed into law.  We added another $216 million in education funding, for the largest investment in education in a decade, and this money goes straight into the classrooms.

Education is the cornerstone of a better life, and I am committed to doing everything I can to make sure Alabama children have the resources they need to complete school, be prepared for the workplace and succeed.

ALABAMA STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION

Dr. Eric Mackey was recently named Alabama’s next State Superintendent of Education. The governor serves as a voting member of the Alabama State Board of Education. What vision for Alabama do you share with the new superintendent and where do your philosophies differ? How will you prioritize Alabama’s school children in your role on the Board?

Choosing the next State Superintendent is one the most important decisions entrusted to the Board. Before we began the process, I laid out a thorough and deliberate process to ensure we chose someone with a forward thinking vision that would improve the quality of education for all Alabama students.

Ultimately, I voted for Dr. Mackey because of our shared vision and commitment to ensuring children have a strong start to their educational journey and a strong finish so they can succeed when they enter the workforce. I also appreciate Dr. Mackey’s plans to improve assessments,  the quality and quantity of our teachers, and to reduce administrative overhead. Dr. Mackey also demonstrated an important and strong commitment to continue and complete the Montgomery Public School intervention.

As president of the Board, I am focused on setting clear goals to improve learning and adopting strategy for educators to implement. I believe the Board must also see that Dr. Mackey is fully empowered to focus on students, unhindered from personal or political agendas.

SCHOOL SAFETY

The recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida reignited the discussion about school safety. President Trump has suggested arming teachers while others have argued for increased use of school resource officers and funding for mental health programs. As governor, how would you ensure the safety of Alabama’s children in public schools?

Earlier this year, I unveiled the “Smart on Safety Initiative”, a four-pronged plan to ensure the safety of our children at school. It’s an unfortunate reality but we must be prepared to prevent and respond to violence on our school grounds.

Details on the Smart on Safety Initiatives:

Secure Schools: While each school is different, the state will support local educators and administrators as they meet their own safety needs. As part of this plan, I signed a bill that allows schools to access funds from the Education Trust Fund Rolling Reserve Acts for the improvement and enhancement of school safety.

We Know Our Schools: A key part of the plan includes prevention. Schools are encouraged to identify at-risk students through student engagement and intervene before they harm themselves or others.

Emergency Operations Plan (EOPs): If a tragedy does occur, school personnel need to be empowered to act before first responders arrive. Schools should work with first responders and law enforcement on an ongoing basis to develop and maintain a current coordinated response to emergencies. Teachers and students will also receive regular trainings.

SAFE Council: An issue this critical does not leave room for error, which is why I established the SAFE Council. Composed of the Secretary of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, the Secretary of the Office of Information Technology, the Alabama State Superintendent of Education and the Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Mental Health, the SAFE Council carefully and thoroughly developed a report focused on the improvement of physical security, threat assessments and mental health and coordinated training. Some of the council’s recommendations will be immediately implemented, and I will be working with the State Legislature on the items that require further action and consideration.

SCHOOL CHOICE

In 2015, Alabama became the 43rd state to approve legislation to authorize charter schools. Many states now allow parents to transfer their child from a failing public school to a non-failing public school, to utilize education savings accounts or school vouchers, or to send students to alternative schools using tax-credit scholarships, allowing parents greater control in their child’s educational endeavors. How should school choice fit into Alabama’s education system?

As president of the Board of Education, an intimate knowledge of the education system is critical to our children’s success and ultimately the success of this great state. As a former teacher, I appreciate the benefits of school choice. School choice provides healthy competition, and competition can effectively raise student performance, teacher attendance, and financial management. As a conservative leader, I will always support and empower local administrators.

FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY

TAX CODE

In Alabama, the bottom 20% of earners pay 10% of their income in state and local taxes while the top 1% only pays 3.8% of their income in the same taxes. If elected, what would be the future of the state income tax and do you see this disparity as a problem?

This year, I was proud to work together with the state legislature to pass the largest middle class tax cut in a decade. Under the new law, we increased the threshold for claiming the maximum exemption for state income taxes.

I understand that every dollar spent by the government belongs to the people. And with the economy booming, I am pleased that we were able to give back to Alabamians some of their hard earned money.

STATE AND LOCAL TAXES

According to the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy, Alabama boasts the 12th most regressive state and local tax system in the nation. One contributor to this ranking is our combined 9% grocery tax (only four states tax groceries more than Alabama). In 2017, Governor Bentley proposed decreasing the grocery tax by 4%. If you are elected, would you suggest changes to the grocery tax?

During my first year in office, I focused on giving Alabamians back some of their hard earned money with the largest middle class tax cut in a decade. This is a first step, but we are certainly not finished. With support from the people of Alabama, I would dedicate the next four years to continuing the good work we have begun.

Tax reform requires a comprehensive approach. As families know, financial planning requires an examination of how much money is being earned and how much money is being spent. Before we can determine what taxes should be changed or eliminated, we must conduct a thorough review of government spending to identify and eliminate unnecessary spending.

Promoting economic growth is another important step to reducing the tax burden on families. As Governor, I have made it my job to make sure everybody has a job with a good paycheck.

In less than a year, we steadied the ship, achieved record low unemployment, approved record funding for education and still managed to give Alabamians the largest middle class tax cut in a decade. Imagine the progress we can make if given four years to implement our agenda.

INFRASTRUCTURE INVESTMENT

US News ranks Alabama’s roads and bridges as the 16th and 21st best in the country, respectively. Even so, every neighbor of ours—except Mississippi—has roads and bridges that rank in the top 10. Alabama also ranks 45th in terms of broadband access. If elected, what would you prioritize as the most important infrastructure investment projects, and what innovative options would you propose to fund such projects?

Infrastructure is a critical component to job creation efforts. If we want to be competitive in the 21st Century economy, we must invest in our roads, bridges and broadband Internet.

However, current infrastructure funding in Alabama provides for only two of three important aspects:  1) We are able to provide for the general maintenance of roads and bridges; and 2) We periodically fund priority projects to alleviate some of the state’s most congested roadways.  The third aspect which we are unable to fund under our current structure is that of 3) priority projects which continue to be on our state’s “wish list.” This wish list is typically driven by the recommendations of local officials as they determine their greatest needs.

Shortly after being sworn in as Governor, I was chosen as one of eight governors to work with President Trump on how to improve our infrastructure.  As we have worked with President Trump and the Federal Highway Administration, we have begun to implement alternative methods to address the expansion of infrastructure. For example, we have applied the utilization of public-private partnerships (P3s).  The greatest example of this is the I-10 Mobile River Bridge.  This project is one of the most significant infrastructure projects in the United States, and we will take a business-minded approach by leveraging the private sector for a more efficient and cost-effective outcome to the state and its residents.

Infrastructure is not just limited to our roads and bridges. Our ability to continue to attract world-class companies and improve access to quality education and health care is dependent on widespread access to high speed Internet. I prioritized broadband access by supporting and signing “The Broadband Accessibility Act” into law during my first full legislative session as Governor.  This law is an important step to moving Alabama forward by ensuring our citizens have the tools and resources needed to succeed in this modern economy. But I’m not done yet.

I plan to continue to work with existing Internet providers, education leaders, healthcare providers and others to identify even more ways to expand our broadband capabilities so that every citizen who needs access will have it available.

STATE-RUN LOTTERY

Most states resort to installing a state-run lottery to increase revenue and pay for government projects. Do you support a lottery to solve the state’s fiscal woes? Why or why not?

In Alabama, a state lottery would require a Constitutional amendment, which requires the state legislature to pass a bill which then goes directly to the people for a vote.  If the state legislature passed a bill, I would support allowing the people of Alabama to vote.

THE RIGHT TO WORK

JOB CREATION

The Census Bureau suggests that Georgia, Florida, and Tennessee are creating more jobs than Alabama. As governor, how would you foster job creation that rivals our neighbors to the north, east, and south?

Under my leadership, Alabama is attracting world class companies. In only a year, more than $6 billion have been invested, 13,000 jobs have been created and we have achieved record low unemployment. But, we’re not done yet. If we want to continue to recruit job creators, we need to improve education, modernize our infrastructure and strengthen our workforce development.

ROLE OF LABOR

Alabama is a right-to-work state. In your opinion, what is the proper role of organized labor and should Alabama remain a right-to-work state?

Yes, workers should be entitled to work without being forced to join a labor union. This affords workers more freedom, including financial burdens. Being a right to work state is not only good for workers, it’s good for the overall economy as it increases competition and promotes more economic growth. I believe a free marketplace is most effective.

OCCUPATIONAL LICENSING IN ALABAMA

The state of Alabama licenses 151 different occupations and over 20% of Alabama workers need a license to work. If elected, how would address these regulations—regulations that both the Obama and Trump administrations have regarded as problematic?

I am fully committed to reducing the size and scope of state government.  I have led efforts to streamline government operations and continue to make that a priority. Government should exist to protect citizens, help the most vulnerable, and create an optimal environment for job creation.  Our economic development successes over the last year prove that companies see Alabama as a state with a favorable economic and regulatory climate.  However, government can always operate more efficiently and effectively for the people.

I will continue to push for more friendly policies for businesses and individuals and fully commit to President Trump’s policies for a less burdensome government. Government was created for the people and by the people.  It should not be an “us vs. them” mentality.  The dollars that support state government do not belong to the bureaucrat – but to the residents of this state.  We must always remember to spend them with meticulous and thoughtful results in mind.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

OPIOID EPIDEMIC

According to the CDC, Alabama is the state highest-prescribed with opioids, with more prescriptions than people. Opioids are the main driver of overdose deaths and, in 2016, 756 Alabamians died from drug overdoses. As governor, how would you tackle Alabama’s share of this national crisis?

The opioid crisis is an issue that touches all our communities. This isn’t a political issue, it’s destroying lives regardless of political parties, and we must do everything in our power to stop it.

That is why I signed an executive order to establish the Opioid Overdose and Addiction Council, which is tasked with addressing the urgent epidemic that is ravaging our families.

CRIME PREVENTION

Alabama has the third highest murder rate in the country. As governor, how would you address crime and what policies, specifically, would you propose?

Any efforts to target crime reduction must begin early in an individual’s life with commitment to create a different culture, environment and opportunity for everyone.  For Alabamians to have career opportunities, they must be prepared when the right job comes along. My education initiative, Strong Start, Strong Finish does just that. Under Strong Start, Strong Finish we will coordinate our efforts and bring all stakeholders to the table in order to improve education all the way from Pre-K to the workforce effective education requires a strong foundation in a child’s early years. In 2017, under the leadership of Secretary Jeana Ross, Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program increased the number of classrooms to 938 statewide. Research shows us that students who participate in Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program are more likely than other students to be proficient in reading and math at every grade level.

For the 11th year in a row, our First-Class Pre-K program was recognized for being the highest-quality Pre-K in the nation. In fact, Harvard University is currently developing a full-length documentary on Alabama’s Pre-K program to share across the country with those interested in following our lead. Our First-Class Pre-K is certainly a bright spot for Alabama.

I’m proud to have quickly become known as a governor focused on education. Over the past nine months, I have devoted a great deal of my time to my role as president of the State Board of Education. In less than two years, Alabama has had four different K-12 superintendents. That is nothing to be proud of. The members of the State Board of Education must ensure continuity to see progress. Board members must set goals and adopt strategies to achieve student learning at high standards. Our central focus must be on our students, not on personal agendas or political maneuvering.

PRISON REFORMS

Alabama has received national attention for the state of its prisons and a federal judge recently called inmate care “horrendously inadequate”. How would you address this issue, and do you support the use of private prisons?

Perhaps our state’s biggest challenge is found in our prison system. For far too long we have run our state’s prison system in a way that risks a takeover by the federal courts. Now, one federal court has found that our prisons are overcrowded and understaffed, due at least in part to facilities that are worn and old. Correctional professionals work diligently to provide security, medical, mental health and rehabilitative services in a challenging environment. They deserve our attention and support. We must also work diligently to provide appropriate care to those placed in the custody of the Department of Corrections.

Immediately after taking office, I instructed Commissioner Jeff Dunn and his staff to work closely with my staff to develop a viable plan to address correctional staffing and make capital investments in our infrastructure.

We have commissioned comprehensive reviews to determine the compensation levels necessary to recruit and retain corrections staff. And I have instructed the Commissioner to hire a project management team to help us develop a master plan so we will be able to make smart, cost-effective decisions when addressing our outdated prison infrastructure.

We will no longer guess about possible fixes. Instead, I will present to the people a workable solution to this generational problem. I am committed to meeting this challenge head-on. Together, with the support of the legislature, we will solve this problem for generations to come. This is an Alabama problem that must have an Alabama solution; now is the time to act.

CIVIL ASSET FORFEITURE

Some states are eliminating provisions that allow police to seize property without securing a criminal conviction. Do you support the use of civil asset forfeiture by law enforcement and the provision that allows agencies to keep the proceeds of seized property? Why or why not?

I support reform to protect personal property and due process rights of all Alabamians. This year, the state legislature took an important step by starting the conversation. It is my hope that we can build upon the foundation that was laid and implement real reform that balances individuals’ protection of personal property and the flexibility necessary for law enforcement to hold criminals accountable.

38 mins ago

Huntsville-managed SLS program gets major boost; 2024 Moon mission closer to realization

NASA on Wednesday announced that it has officially taken the next steps toward the mission that will carry the first woman and next man to the Moon by 2024.

The agency is now committing to build Space Launch System (SLS) rocket core stages to support as many as 10 Artemis missions.

To accomplish this, NASA intends to work with Boeing, the current lead contractor for the core stages of the rockets that will fly on the first two Artemis missions, for the production of SLS rockets through the next decade.

The SLS program is managed out of Marshall Space Flight Center for NASA, while Boeing’s Huntsville-based Space and Launch division manages the company’s SLS work. SLS is the most powerful rocket in world history and the only rocket that can send the Orion spacecraft, astronauts and supplies to the Moon in a single mission.

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“We greatly appreciate the confidence NASA has placed in Boeing to deliver this deep space rocket and their endorsement of our team’s approach to meeting this unprecedented technological and manufacturing challenge in support of NASA’s Artemis program,” Jim Chilton, senior vice president of Boeing’s Space and Launch division, stated.

Tuesday’s announcement confirmed that NASA has provided initial funding and authorization to Boeing to begin work toward the production of the third core stage and to order targeted long-lead materials and cost-efficient bulk purchases to support future builds of core stages.

This action allows Boeing to manufacture the third core stage in time for the 2024 mission, Artemis III, while NASA and Boeing work on negotiations to finalize the details of the full contract within the next year. The full contract is expected to support up to ten core stages and up to eight Exploration Upper Stages (EUS).

“It is urgent that we meet the President’s goal to land astronauts on the Moon by 2024, and SLS is the only rocket that can help us meet that challenge,” NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement.

“These initial steps allow NASA to start building the core stage that will launch the next astronauts to set foot on the lunar surface and build the powerful exploration upper stage that will expand the possibilities for Artemis missions by sending hardware and cargo along with humans or even heavier cargo needed to explore the Moon or Mars,” he added.

The core stage is the center part of the rocket that contains the two giant liquid fuel tanks. Towering 212 feet with a diameter of 27.6 feet, it will store cryogenic liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen and all the systems that will feed the stage’s four RS-25 engines. It also houses the flight computers and much of the avionics needed to control the rocket’s flight.

(NASA/MSFC)

Boeing’s current contract includes the SLS core stages for the Artemis I and Artemis II missions and the first EUS, as well as structural test articles and the core stage pathfinder.

The imminent new contract is expected to realize substantial savings compared to the production costs of core stages built during the design, development, test and evaluation phase by applying lessons learned during first-time builds and gaining efficiencies through bulk purchases.

“NASA is committed to establishing a sustainable presence at the Moon, and this action enables NASA to continue Space Launch System core stage production in support of that effort to help bring back new knowledge and prepare for sending astronauts to Mars,” John Honeycutt, SLS program manager at Marshall, explained.

“SLS is the only rocket powerful enough to send Orion, astronauts and supplies to the Moon on a single mission, and no other rocket in production today can send as much cargo to deep space as the Space Launch System rocket,” he concluded.

Wednesday’s news was met with a celebratory tweet by Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), a champion for space exploration.

For the first three Artemis missions, the SLS rocket will use an interim cryogenic propulsion stage to send the Orion spacecraft to the Moon. The rocket is designed to meet a variety of mission needs by evolving to carry greater mass and volume with a more powerful EUS. The EUS is an important part of Artemis infrastructure needed to send astronauts and large cargo together, or larger cargo-only shipments, to the Moon, Mars and deep space.

NASA plans on to use the first EUS on the Artemis IV mission, and additional core stages and upper stages will support either crewed Artemis missions, science missions or cargo missions.

“The exploration upper stage will truly open up the universe by providing even more lift capability to deep space,” Julie Bassler, the SLS Stages manager at Marshall, advised. “The exploration upper stage will provide the power to send more than 45 metric tons, or 99 thousand pounds, to lunar orbit.”

The SLS rocket, Orion spacecraft, Gateway and Human Landing System are part of NASA’s backbone for deep space exploration. Work is well underway on both the Artemis I and II rockets, with core stage assembly nearly complete at Michoud in New Orleans.

Soon, the stage will be shipped to NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, where it will undergo Green Run testing, an integrated test of the entire new stage that culminates with the firing of all four RS-25 engines. Upon completion of the test, NASA’s Pegasus barge will take the core stage to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida where it will be integrated with other parts of the rocket and Orion for Artemis I. Boeing also has completed manufacturing most of the main core stage structures for Artemis II.

“Together with a nationwide network of engaged and innovative suppliers we will deliver the first core stage to NASA this year for Artemis I,” Boeing’s Chilton concluded. “This team is already implementing lessons learned and innovative practices from the first build to produce a second core stage more efficiently than the first. We are committed to continuous improvement as they execute on this new contract.”

North Alabama also will play a leading role in other components of Artemis, including with the lunar Gateway and the new Human Landing System. Historic contributions to America’s space prowess are being made by several private sector partners in the Yellowhammer State, such as United Launch Alliance (ULA), Boeing and Dynetics.

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

Episode 6: Interview with former Nine Inch Nails drummer Chris Vrenna

Dale Jackson is joined former Nine Inch Nails drummer Chris Vrenna to talk about how he went from the life of sex, drugs, and rock and roll to leading the music department of Calhoun Community College in Decatur.

Vrenna describes how his love of music took him all over the world, granted him the awards and adulations of millions, and how it made him a better teacher in 2019 in Alabama.

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Episode 30: Bye week recap, college football midterm

A rested DrunkAubie is back from the bye week ready to discuss South Carolina beating Georgia last week and the upcoming matchup with Arkansas.

In this episode, Rodrigo “Hot Rod” Blankenship goes to the eye doctor, Auburn Fans Anonymous and DA takes a college football midterm exam.

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13 hours ago

Black Alabamians should reject Doug Jones in 2020

Last September, just before midnight, Senator Doug Jones grabbed his phone, went on Twitter and in no more than 50 words, told the people of Alabama that he would be voting NO on the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court.

Immediately, I was overcome with shock and indignation. Yes, more often than not, Senator Jones toes the party line; he votes against President Trump’s positions 84% of the time.

Naively, I assumed that with so much at stake, this time would be different.

Surely, I thought, he would be reminded of Brian Banks, an African-American senior at Long Beach Polytechnic High School who had just committed to UCLA before his career was destroyed by a false accusation of sexual assault.

Or maybe, the images of the nine black teenagers falsely accused of rape who collectively spent over 100 years in prison not far from where he grew up would cause him to demand, at the very least, a smidgen of evidence before casting blame.

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As he was pondering his decision, I was supremely certain he would hear the cries of Mamie Elizabeth Till-Mobley as she wept over the casket of her son, Emmett Till, who was abducted, brutally tormented, shot, folded in barbed wire and then dumped in the Tallahatchie River because he “whistled” at a white woman — a lie she recanted some 50 years later.

Surely, I thought, his years as a federal prosecutor, in which he routinely witnessed lives shattered over false accusations, might reignite his deep and profound respect for the sacred principle that, in our criminal justice system, one is innocent until proven guilty.

With his vote, Senator Jones endorsed a cultural movement which mandates that, even in the absence of evidentiary support, we must #BelieveAllWomen.

While seemingly well-intentioned, this categorical pledge should alarm Black folks in Alabama, as it stands to disproportionately affect us the most. Taking punitive action on the basis of accusation, and not evidence, is a philosophical regression that could awaken one of Jim Crow’s most destructive offspring: a society that values the voices spoken from white tongues over those from black ones.

The National Registry of Exonerations, in a 2017 report examining 1,900 exonerations over the past 30 years, determined that 47% of those exonerated were African-American, despite the fact that we make up only 13% of the U.S. population. In cases involving sexual assault, African-Americans constituted 22% of convictions, but 59% of exonerations. In other words, around half of the time, black men are wrongly convicted of sexual assault.

Realistically, if Kavanaugh is not afforded due process, despite being reared in some of America’s most privileged institutions, what chance do we have?

In a criminal justice system rife with inequalities, the presumption of innocence is often the only thing we can hope for. And Doug Jones’ philosophy — one that assumes guilt when accusations are made — is one that leads to the unjust imprisonment of men who look like me.

All survivors of sexual assault and rape deserve justice, just as the accused deserve one of America’s most potent protections: innocence until proven guilty. It is a cornerstone of American jurisprudence – one that separates us from brutal regimes across the globe and one that must not be relegated to a second-class status.

As election season is upon us and Doug Jones walks the streets of our neighborhoods and preaches to our congregations in the hopes of garnering our vote, remember that politics is more than just handshakes and speeches. Our votes, and the people they go to, have the power to turn ideas into reality.

Let’s vow to utilize that power to keep Jones and his destructive philosophy from creating more miscarriages of justice in our community.

Jalen Drummond is a native of Randolph County and alumnus of the University of Alabama

15 hours ago

Heaven to hell and back again: How faith, Nick Saban helped Tyrone Prothro get his life back

Three weeks. Just three weeks. That was the time between the greatest high of his life and the greatest low.

Today, 14 years later, the memories of two college football Saturdays please him, yet haunt him. From heaven to hell in a span of three weeks, and to this day, both places remain with him.

The greatest catch in the history of college football. A career-ending, gruesome injury just three weeks later: Tyrone Prothro is known worldwide for both, and the lessons he’s learned from the fall of 2005 have shaped the man that he has become.

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Man, was he speedy — a shifty offensive threat at Cleburne County High School, Prothro was listed at 5-foot-9-inches tall.

Most snickered when they saw his height listed as 5’9”, but it didn’t matter, because, in Heflin, Tyrone Protho was a giant — an unstoppable athlete who seemingly scored at will. And, a few years later when his signature football moment arrived on September 10, 2005, the then-Crimson Tide receiver was ready.

It was just before the half, and Bama quarterback Brodie Croyle was looking to send a message to Southern Miss as the home crowd smelled blood. Prothro smelled a big play, and boy, did he deliver.

As Croyle spotted a streaking Prothro down the field, Prothro spotted an opportunity. Up for the football Prothro went, collecting the football along with Southern Miss defensive back Jasper Faulk. As the pair tumbled to the turf, Prothro hung on as Faulk’s helmet was caught between the football and Prothro’s jersey. Tyrone squeezed the football like he had never squeezed a football before as he held onto the ball which was pinned against his opponent’s helmet.

In that moment, “The Catch” was born.

In the weeks that followed, Tyrone Prothro was not only the big man on campus, but rather the biggest story in America. Six months after The Catch, Twitter was born- –and oh, how that play would have gone viral if it had arrived a few months earlier. How big was that play? Prothro found himself in Hollywood the following July accepting the ESPY Award for “Best Play.” An ESPY for the kid from Heflin, Alabama? It was all so surreal.

October 1, 2005, brought to Tuscaloosa one of the biggest football games in recent memory. Three Saturdays after “The Catch,” Prothro was enjoying a performance for the ages. A first quarter 87-yard touchdown catch from Brodie Croyle? Why not? Prothro and crew led the Gators 7-0. Fast forward to the third quarter: Another Prothro TD catch from 16 yards and the Crimson Tide led 31-3. He believed that his life-changing season would continue.

Prothro’s life would indeed change, but it was not the change that he expected.

Late in the Florida game, Prothro went high into the air as he attempted to make another one of his circus catches. This time, as he landed awkwardly, his dream of playing in the NFL would be over. Prothro’s left leg snapped in half. A hush fell over the crowd as never before had Bama fans witnessed such horror, such sadness, such empathy. Through his pain, Prothro managed a thumbs up as he was carted off the field.

Yet just like that, football had left his life.

“Now what?” he asked himself. After all, Prothro had big dreams — but instead of preparing for the NFL Draft, Prothro found himself preparing for surgery.

And then another. And then another.

Prothro underwent a total of 12 surgeries, as he wasn’t concerned with playing football again, but rather walking again. And at the moment when Prothro felt as if all was lost in his life? In the midst of him questioning God?

More confusion arose, as that Alabama coaching carousel had his mind spinning: Dennis Franchione. Mike Price. Mike Shula. Joe Kines. Nick Saban. What in the world was happening in Tuscaloosa?

His football career was over — yet as his mind strained, his competitiveness kicked in: Tyrone Prothro continued working toward his degree.

The problem?

Focusing on his studies was not his strong suit. And as he looks back today, Prothro told the Huts And Nuts podcast that it was a man named Nick Saban who came to his rescue. Yes, the same coach for whom Prothro never played, the same coach who was forced to officially take Prothro off the Bama roster on August 3, 2007.

Said Prothro on the podcast, “My grades were falling and I was in the dumps. I had a meeting with Coach Saban and he told me that the best thing I could do was to get my degree. He then chewed me out in a second meeting and he helped me realize that it was the best thing I could do for myself.”

In August 2008, Tyrone Prothro graduated from the University of Alabama with a degree in Human Environmental Sciences.

It’s been 14 years since Prothro felt elation, 14 years since he felt despair. Yet today, he is a happy camper.

At the time of this writing, Prothro and his wife, Sidnie, were expecting the arrival of daughter Laila — she will enter the world as brother London welcomes her with open arms.

After taking a few days off, Prothro will head back to work as an offensive assistant coach with the Jasper High School football team.

Prothro advised, “If I can help one of these kids through my story, I feel it’s why I’m here. I’m going to help as many kids as I can.”

And of his shattered dream of playing in the NFL?

“I was projected to be a first-round pick. I’m not one to sit back and dwell on what wasn’t. All I can do is move forward and work like the next man, taking care of my family.”

Years after feeling an ultimate high and a heartbreaking low, the Alabama football family feels for Tyrone Prothro, as Bama fans are proud of how one of their own has handled adversity.

Prothro’s football life may not have been completed, but thanks to family, faith and a drive possessed by few others, he is now content.

“You just have to take the bull by the horns and keep plugging along. It will be then that it will all pay off,” he explained

Wise words indeed from a “Hero of the Game” and a man who will never forget those three weeks in 2005.

Listen to the full interview:

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.