6 months ago

Gulf Council plans April vote; Alabama sets snapper season

One casualty from the recent partial federal government shutdown surfaced last week when the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council met at the Perdido Beach Resort in Orange Beach, Ala.

Because of the shutdown, the Gulf Council was unable to publish a notice in the Federal Register on a pending vote on Amendment 50, the state management of red snapper. The Council voted to call a special meeting for February to vote on the measure, but that effort was canceled because of logistics problems.

The Council will vote on Amendment 50 at the next regular Council meeting scheduled the first week of April at Biloxi, Miss.

In the meantime, Alabama set its 2019 red snapper season, which is operating under the final year of an Exempted Fishing Permit (EFP).

The 2019 Alabama red snapper fishing season for anglers fishing from a private vessel or state-licensed guide boat will be three-day weekends (Friday-Sunday) from June 1 through July 28, 2019, including Thursday, July 4. Except for the opening weekend, which begins on a Saturday, weekends are defined as 12:01 a.m. Friday through 11:59 p.m. Sunday. This does not apply to for-hire (charter) boats with federal reef fishing permits. Charter boats will operate under federal regulations in 2019.

Alabama Marine Resources Division Director Scott Bannon said a vote on Amendment 50 at the April meeting should provide enough time to get the rules changed for the 2020 season.

“We should we able to get it done, but we don’t need any more delays,” Bannon said.

Amendment 50 shifts red snapper management to the states and allots each state a share of the red snapper quota. The preferred alternative will give Alabama a 26.49-percent share, while Florida’s share is a little more than 44 percent.

The 2018 and 2019 snapper seasons in the Gulf are operating under an Exempted Fishing Permit (EFP) that allows the states to set the snapper seasons under the catch limits. Last year, a 3.78-percent share of the quota was left after the pie had been divvied up. NOAA Fisheries (National Marine Fisheries Service or NMFS) gave Florida that 3.78 percent last year.

That 3.78 percent will be split between Florida and Alabama in the preferred alternative for Amendment 50.

“The eastern Gulf is where most of the harvest of red snapper is occurring,” Bannon said. “That is why we think that percentage should be split.”

Bannon said currently there are no plans to include for-hire (charter) boats in any of the state management plans.

Bannon expects Amendment 50 to pass in some form at the April meeting.

“Right now, I’m confident we will have a state-managed season for 2020,” Bannon said. “Allocation was the biggest concern with the options available. I think we will pass it at the next meeting.”

During the 2018 snapper season, the first under the EFP, Alabama set an optimistic private recreational season of 47 days, mostly on three-day weekends.

However, a renewed enthusiasm for snapper fishing and excellent weather conditions forced Marine Resources to shut down the season after 28 days.

“We will again be evaluating the season as it goes along through Snapper Check,” Bannon said. “We have the option to add days if we feel it’s appropriate, based on the harvest rate.”

Of course, that harvest rate will likely be weather-dependent.

“The weather last year was almost ideal throughout the entire red snapper season, and I think that contributed to the increased harvest rates,” Bannon said.

Plus, Alabama’s unparalleled artificial reef zone provides easy access to anglers who want to catch a limit of two red snapper with a minimum length of 16 inches.

“In the Alabama reef zone, we feel we have a very healthy population of red snapper,” Bannon said. “They are relatively accessible, and the size of the fish caught has been larger over the last couple of years. That also lends to reaching our allocation of pounds earlier.”

Dr. Bob Shipp, professor emeritus of Marine Sciences at the University of South Alabama, has been studying red snapper off the Alabama Gulf Coast for decades, and he’s happy to see that the excellent health of the red snapper stock is finally being recognized.

NOAA Fisheries Southeast Regional Director Dr. Roy Crabtree acknowledged at the meeting in Orange Beach that the red snapper fishery is rebounding at a much faster rate than expected.

“The recovery of red snapper has been very robust,” Crabtree said. “There’s no evidence that it’s not going to continue. It’s a remarkable success story.”

Shipp applauded Crabtree’s confirmation that red snapper resiliency is far greater than NOAA scientists and their computer models predicted.

“I was delighted to hear Roy say that,” Shipp said. “Roy has been aware that the recovery is a lot faster than the models projected. That’s good news. I think everybody is on the same page now in terms of the status of the red snapper stocks. The species is very, very healthy. All the testimony we get from Texas all the way to the Keys is that snapper stocks are really strong.”

Earlier this year, the U.S. Congress passed the Modern Fish Act, which was lauded by the recreational fishing community. However, the effect of the Modern Fish Act is not yet fully understood.

“There are provisions in the Act for the National Academies of Sciences to study the fisheries management plans,” Bannon said. “It also directs the Comptroller General to study the allocations, ensuring they are utilizing all the appropriate data that may be provided by the states and other entities. It’s really an outside look to make sure we’re using all the pertinent information to make management decisions. There are some pretty tight timelines, so they’ll have to quickly develop plans to present to NOAA and the regional fisheries management councils.”

In other action by the Council last week, Amendments 41 and 42, which deal with headboats and charter boats, respectively, were postponed until electronic log book data becomes available.

Right now, the charter industry in Alabama will remain under federal guidelines, which is fine with Capt. Johnny Greene, who runs the Intimidator out of Orange Beach Marina.

“Last year, we fished about 50 days, and we may get about 60 days this year with the reduction of the buffer because we stayed within our sub-quota for the past three years,” Greene said. “The buffer was reduced from 20 percent to about 10 percent. When you get 10 percent more, that is significant, especially at that time of year (tourist season). At the end of the day, it’s all about the people on the back of the boat who are really going to benefit from this. For the non-boat-owning public, this is their best avenue to reap the rewards of the expanded season.”

David Rainer is an award-winning writer who has covered Alabama’s great outdoors for 25 years. The former outdoors editor at the Mobile Press-Register, he writes for Outdoor Alabama, the website of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

30 mins ago

Georgia-based Colonial sues contractor over Alabama spill

Georgia-based Colonial Pipeline Co. has sued an Alabama contractor over a spill that threatened gasoline supplies along the East Coast three years ago.

The pipeline operator contends faulty work by the Birmingham-based Ceco Pipeline Services caused a crack that spilled at least 250,000 gallons of gasoline in rural Shelby County in September 2016.

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The spill shut down a major pipeline for weeks, tightening gasoline supplies along the Eastern Seaboard.

The pipeline carries fuel from Houston to metropolitan New York.

With headquarters near Atlanta in Alpharetta, Colonial Pipeline filed the federal lawsuit Friday seeking an unspecified amount of money.

Ceco Pipeline Services has not filed a response in court, and general manager Luke Hotze declined comment Monday, citing the lawsuit.

Hired to replace coatings that protect the pipeline’s exterior, the contractor failed to adequately replace dirt around the pipeline after maintenance work, the suit said.

The failure left a void beneath the pipe, which bent as it sagged.

The bend caused cracks that led to the breach, according to the suit.

The failure cost Colonial Pipeline lost income, plus money spent on repairs and cleanup, the lawsuit said without specifying an amount.

The lawsuit said Colonial Pipeline transports an average of 100 million gallons (378 million liters) of refined petroleum products daily through a system that includes more than 5,500 miles (8,850 kilometers) of pipeline.
(Associated Press, copyright 2019)

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‘School choice’ also means ‘tax choice’ in Alabama

It’s back-to-school season and for some parents, this is a happy time.

But for those whose children are stuck in underperforming schools, or schools where they are bullied or are in danger, this is a heartbreaking time, especially if they cannot afford to move or go to private school.

“There was fighting every day. People wanted to shoot me, kill me, and everything,” said Calvin Coleman in a speech about his experiences at his Mobile public high school.

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Did you know that you, or your company, can help students like Calvin by donating a portion of what you already owe in state income taxes to a program that funds scholarships for low-income families in Alabama?

“When my son Carlos was in the fifth grade, he was constantly bullied and I wanted to desperately put him into a private school,” wrote Nyenya Webster of Montgomery in Alabama Daily News. Every day was a struggle, she added. “I was at a loss as to what to do to help my son.”

Then Webster learned about the tax-credit scholarship program created in 2013 by the Alabama Accountability Act that serves roughly 4,000 low-income, mostly minority Alabama students.

She applied, and Carlos received a scholarship to attend Success Unlimited Academy in Montgomery.

“Success Unlimited has been a lifesaver for my son,” Webster wrote. “He … is now considering college. My son never talked about going to college before Success.”

For those who want to help other Alabama families break the cycle of poverty through education, it’s a no-brainer.

“For a donor, it doesn’t cost them anything,” said Warren Callaway, executive director of Scholarships For Kids, one of the scholarship granting organizations funded by the program.

That’s because a tax credit is different from a charitable contribution. When you make a charitable contribution to a non-profit organization, you deduct a portion of that on your income tax. However, a tax credit allows you to take a dollar for dollar reduction in your state income tax.

“Basically, donors are redirecting some of their state income tax liability to a [scholarship granting organization],” Callaway said. “So, if you give $100 to us, you can reduce your state income tax by $100.”

Who benefits from the donation?

“The average household income for these students is under $30,000 so these are families that would have no other way of choosing the school that is best for their child,” said Ryan Cantrell, director of state strategy and political affairs for the American Federation for Children, during an interview of the 1819 podcast.

Higher-income families have always had school choice, Cantrell said, but “it’s the low-income families who get stuck with no options in under-performing schools or schools that don’t work for their child.”

There are $30 million in tax credits available and, so far, only about a third have been claimed, according to the Department of Revenue’s My Alabama Taxes website.

Here’s how you can reserve your tax credit before the December 31, 2019, deadline:

Step 1: Estimate how much income tax you or your business will owe Alabama next year by checking how much you paid last year. Individuals and corporations can donate up to 50 percent of their tax bill, and while individuals are limited to $50,000, corporations are unlimited.

Step 2: Visit the My Alabama Taxes website and follow instructions for reserving an Alabama Accountability Act tax credit.

Step 3: Send a check to one of the seven scholarship granting organizations in Alabama within 30 days.

Step 4: When you do your taxes next year, fill out an Alabama Department of Revenue Schedule AATC form to reduce your income tax bill by the amount you donated.

For more help, individuals may call the Alabama Department of Revenue at 334-353-0602 or 334-353-9770, and corporations may call 334-242-1200.

You’re already going to have to write a check for your state income taxes. Why not control where some of that money goes, especially when it has the power to change lives?

“It was a relief that nobody would understand,” said mother-of-five Alleane West in an Alabama Opportunity Scholarship video about the program’s impact on her family. “You know, you’re a single mom with boys trying to not make them a statistic.”

Watch:

Rachel Blackmon Bryars is a senior fellow at the Alabama Policy Institute. Connect with her at rachel@alabamapolicy.org or on Instagram @RachelBlackmonBryars.

2 hours ago

Ivey to toll detractors: ‘Nobody wants to pay for anything — We just always want the benefits’; Calls for other ‘reasonable solutions’

On Monday, the political battle over the proposed tolling for the new I-10 Mobile Bayway Bridge escalated when Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth came out in opposition to the toll. Following in Ainsworth’s footsteps and coming out against the proposal as well was another heavy-hitter, State Senate President Pro-Tem Del Marsh.

Tuesday, Gov. Kay Ivey, who has insisted on the necessity of the project and warned that “cost of doing nothing” was too high, offered a response to detractors.

Ivey indicated to Matt Murphy and Andrea Lindenberg, co-hosts of Birmingham radio Talk 99.5’s “The Matt & Aunie Show,” that a reaction to a toll was to be expected. She also said she would listen to alternatives at the Alabama Toll Road, Bridge and Tunnel Authority meeting scheduled for October 7.

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“Nobody wants to pay for anything,” she said. “We just always want the benefits. If somebody has got a better idea of what the toll should be or if we should never toll. That’s the reason I’m hosting the October 7 meeting at the State Capitol for the Toll Bridge and Road Authority – so people can put reasonable solutions on the table. How do we pay for the bridge?”

“Everybody would be for not having to have a toll,” Ivey added. “I just haven’t found that option yet. It’s the reason we’re hosting this meeting with state legislators, congressional delegation, constitutional officers have all been invited to come and be specific and offer some reasonable solutions of how we can pay for the bridge without using a toll or a lower toll.”

Earlier this year, the Alabama legislature raised the state’s gas tax, part of the Rebuild Alabama Act. That had some questioning the timing of the toll coming on the heels of a gas tax increase. According to Ivey, gas tax revenue alone would hardly cover the cost of the bridge.

“When we paid the gas tax, we only did 10 cents,” she said. “It’s a lot of money for some folks, but 10 cents only brings in $320 million annually for roads and bridges across the state. The bridge itself costs $2.1 billion … the gas tax is for statewide projects, not just one project.”

When asked about the timing of her awareness of a toll for the project, Ivey did not offer a specific time. However, she did mention a specific each-way price tag of $2.25, which varied from the $6 each-way toll in many reports.

“They’ve been talking about this bridge for 20-something-odd years for the environmental impact,” Ivey said. “I don’t know when exactly I heard the proposal but $2.25 one-way doesn’t seem too unreasonable.”

According to the governor’s office, the $2.25 Ivey cited referred to the average for the frequent user. The $2.25 cost would be the average price for five days a week for four weeks with the purchase of the proposed frequent user pass at a cost of $90 per month. Also, with the proposed pass, crossing the bridge would unlimited, and the $2.25 average could vary depending on how many times a pass holder crosses in a given month.

When asked about the prospects of additional toll projects throughout the state, Ivey told Talk 99.5 she was unaware of any.

“I’m not aware of any, and the toll roads we do have are on private property as far as I know now there are no other plans for a toll road on state or federal highways,” she said.

When asked about those suggesting U.S. Highway 280 in Birmingham or other roads being tolled, Ivey decried it as “misinformation.”

“So much misinformation out there is intentional,” Ivey said. “It’s just unconscionable for folks to be considering such information. It’s easy to verify what you hear before you spout it. I just encourage everybody to look on the big side of prosperity and let’s build the bridge so we can strengthen commerce and strengthen public safety, and keep our state productive.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV and host of “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN in Huntsville.

3 hours ago

7 Things: ‘No tolls’ chorus gains powerful allies, impeachment talks still a thing, Democrats in Alabama keep fighting and more …

7. How romantic

  • Starting on August 29, Alabama will no longer issue marriage licenses. Couples will now just have to submit a notarized marriage certificate that will be recorded by probate judges instead of being issued by probate judges.
  • Madison County Probate Judge Frank Barger said that this new process means people don’t have to get a license “in advance and a ceremony is no longer required, although couples may certainly have a ceremony if they wish.”

6. No more Moore, please

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  • The defamation lawsuit filed by Roy Moore against the women who accused him of misconduct has been paused by Circuit Judge Albert Johnson, that is until the defamation lawsuit against Roy Moore filed by Leigh Corfman, one of his accusers, is resolved.
  • While Moore has said that he went to court to clear his name, he hasn’t succeeded yet. He stated, “Nothing that’s happened to me has been fair in court.”

4. Omar and Tlaib show why Israel banned them

  • U.S. Representatives Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN) held a news conference where they spoke about being banned from traveling to Israel, a country that they attempted to start a boycott against, and they have now condemned Israel’s decision which garnered them a rebuke in the form of a condemnation by a member of the Alabama Republican Party State Executive Committee.
  • During Omar’s statement, she referenced how the U.S. gives Israel $3 billion in aid every year, but their action of “denying a visit to duly elected members of Congress is not consistent with being an ally.” Omar went on to suggest that Israel is attempting to keep Omar and Tlaib from doing their jobs.

4. Elizabeth Warren and her “white privilege”

  • First, there was a botched DNA rollout that showed 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) was 1/1024th Native American, now Warren has descended on a gathering of Native Americans to offer a half-hearted apology for lying about her ancestry for decades.
  • There’s a no greater example of what Democrats and their media refer to as “cultural appropriation” as Warren’s use of another race to get ahead, yet anyone who mocks her for it is deemed “racist.”

3. Democrats and Doug Jones keep fighting

  • The Alabama Democratic Party can’t stop their pointless war of words with the most successful Alabama Democrat of the last decade in the run-up to some inner-party battles and U.S. Senator Doug Jones’ (D-AL) unlikely reelection.
  • Jones’ unsuccessful attempt to topple Chairwoman Nancy Worley and the leadership-chosen Alabama Democratic Conference has been called “racial” and brought a threat from the ADC, which warned Jones, “Don’t start what you can’t end.”

2. Impeach Trump fight gets more support

  • Assistant House Speaker Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM) has announced his support of impeaching President Trump since “moving forward with an impeachment inquiry, which will continue to uncover the facts for the American people and hold this president accountable.”
  • Lujan explained his reasoning for supporting impeachment, saying, “Numerous experts have warned that these attacks are ongoing to this day. And when faced with this evidence from his own government, President Trump has failed to act. Not only has he ignored the warnings that our Democracy is being targeted, but he has also actively encouraged Russian interference.”

1. Seriously, no tolls

  • Lieutenant Governor Will Ainsworth, Congressman Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) and State Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) have joined the growing chorus of anti-toll advocates.
  • Marsh has the most power here and said that he’s going to “explore all legislative options to ensure this project is fair and reasonable for the citizens of South Alabama – and a $6 toll is not fair or reasonable.” Currently, Governor Kay Ivey has a meeting planned for October 7 to discuss the toll bridge with the Alabama Toll Road, Bridge and Tunnel Authority.

4 hours ago

Alabama Economic Growth Summit to return this October

Telegraph Creative on Tuesday announced it will be hosting the Alabama Economic Growth Summit October 24-25 at the Renaissance Birmingham Ross Bridge Golf Resort & Spa, bringing back the event first held by Yellowhammer Multimedia three years ago.

Alabama Power is the title sponsor for the summit, which will bring together a diverse group of powerful and influential leaders in pursuit of four overall objectives:

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1. Celebrate Alabama’s economic development successes,
2. Rally the state’s major economic development stakeholders around our common goals of job creation and increased prosperity,
3. Facilitate dialogue on the most important issues facing our economy,
4. Drive massive media coverage around Alabama’s commitment to attracting companies and creating an overall environment that’s conducive to growth.

U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard A. Grenell, Deputy U.S. Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette and numerous members of Alabama’s congressional delegation will be among the senior federal government officials participating in the program, along with numerous high-ranking state-level officials from both the legislative and executive branches.

From the private sector, conference organizers told Yellowhammer News that CEOs, venture capitalists, site selectors and economic developers from around the state and nation will be among the speakers and panelists.

A major highlight of the summit will be national media personalities, including Axios executive editor Mike Allen, in attendance covering the event and guiding panel discussions.

The event was first held by Yellowhammer in 2016 when Cliff Sims was the company’s CEO. Now president of Telegraph Creative, Sims is bringing the summit back this year.

“When we launched this event in 2016 at Yellowhammer, our goal was to bring together the state’s leaders around our shared goals of more jobs and increased prosperity for all Alabamians,” he explained to Yellowhammer News on Tuesday. “We’re going to continue that mission this year.”

“Alabama’s had some big economic development wins in recent years. This Summit is all about building on that momentum, and we’re thrilled to have buy-in from the state’s key leaders in both the public and private sectors,” Sims added.

Sims will be on the event’s host committee, which also includes Yellowhammer Multimedia publisher Allison Ross and a host of public and private sector titans, such as:

Will Ainsworth
Lieutenant Governor
State of Alabama

Katie Britt
President
Business Council of Alabama

Stephanie Bryan
Tribal Chair and CEO
Poarch Band of Creek Indians

Mark Crosswhite
Chairman, President and CEO
Alabama Power

Deontée Gordon
President
TechBirmingham

Johnny Johns
Executive Chairman
Protective Life Corporation

Mike Kemp
President and CEO
Kemp Management Solutions

James K. Lyons
CEO
Alabama State Port Authority

Del Marsh
President Pro Tem
Alabama Senate

Mac McCutcheon
Speaker of the House
Alabama House of Representatives

Jimmy Parnell
CEO
Alfa

Liz Pharo
Managing Partner
Featheringill Capital

Jimmy Rane
President and CEO
Great Southern Wood

Jeana Ross
Secretary
Department of Early Childhood Education

Finis St. John
Chancellor
University of Alabama System

Lee Sentell
Director
Alabama Department of Tourism

Gary Smith
President and CEO
PowerSouth

Fitzgerald Washington
Commissioner
Alabama Department of Labor

A complete list of keynote speakers, panelists and VIP guests will be announced in the coming days. Tickets to the event are available now online here.

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