2 weeks ago

House passes bills to legalize delivery of alcoholic beverages, wine shipments

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama House of Representatives passed legislation on Thursday that will allow alcoholic beverages to be delivered to the home.

The first bill, SB 126, passed the Senate early in the session. It was amended on the floor by House legislators on Thursday, so it heads back to the upper chamber for a vote that could send it to the governor’s desk.

SB 126 would create a licensing process that would ultimately allow liquor, beer and wine sold at retailers to be delivered to the home, including by services such as Shipt, Instacart or DoorDash.

State Sen. Jabo Waggoner (R-Vestavia Hills) sponsored SB 126, and it was carried in the House on Thursday by Rep. Gil Isbell (R-Gadsden).

“This is truly about convenience for the citizens of Alabama,” Isbell said about the legislation on Thursday.

Companies in the state that want to deliver alcoholic beverages to the home would have to apply for a delivery service license from Alabama’s Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board.

The legislation has limits on the amounts of each beverage that could be delivered, and deliveries could not be made to dry counties and dry cities.

All drivers carrying alcohol would be required to undergo a background check and must be at least 21 years old.

Local breweries and distillers in Alabama were the subjects of amendments in both legislative chambers that made sure their products were eligible for delivery under the bill.

State Rep. Allen Farley (R-McCalla) observed on the floor, “I can see the alcohol-related traffic fatalities going down,” as a result of the bill’s passage.

Deliveries of alcoholic beverages could not be left unattended. The bill requires a person over 21 must receive all deliveries of alcohol.

SB 126 passed the House with 79 members voting in favor and 12 opposed.

The House passed a second alcohol delivery bill on Thursday, HB 437, that allows wine to be shipped from the manufacturer (winery) to a consumer’s home by common carriers like UPS, FedEx or the U.S. Postal Service.

A carrier that wants to ship alcohol in Alabama will have to be licensed by the ABC Board. Wineries, too, would have to purchase a permit before shipping directly to consumers in Alabama.

Directly-shipped wine would be eligible for delivery to dry counties and dry cities in Alabama if the bill becomes law.

HB 437 now heads to the Alabama Senate for consideration.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

3 mins ago

‘Transformational’ broadband bill gets House committee hearing, still awaits action — ‘We need this’

MONTGOMERY — More than six weeks after unanimously passing the Alabama Senate, SB 215 finally got a hearing in the House Urban and Rural Development Committee on Thursday morning.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Del Marsh (R-Anniston) and carried in the House by Rep. Danny Garrett (R-Trussville), is viewed as a “transformational” piece of legislation aimed at expanding the availability of affordable, high-speed broadband internet service to every Alabamian.

While the bill would benefit from historic levels of funding if the current legislative effort to legalize a lottery and gaming in Alabama succeeds, it has been emphasized by elected officials that SB 215 has paramount standalone importance, as well.

As underlined by multiple proponents in Thursday’s public hearing, SB 215 would create the type of cohesive planning that the state’s broadband expansion efforts currently lack. With funding and incentives coming from different directions at the local, state and federal levels, it is important to finally get one clear game plan of how money will be spent and resources prioritized. The bill would also act as a vehicle to draw down federal funds and would create a new state-entity with bonding authority for broadband expansion.

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Garrett reiterated that Alabama is 47th in the nation in broadband connectivity, even lagging well behind Mississippi, as well as other neighboring states.

He said SB 215 is an “effort to develop a comprehensive, aggressive and robust strategy and process to expand broadband across the state.”

“Doing so will enhance Alabama’s education, health care system and economy,” added Garrett. “The state actually has no connectivity strategy or plan right now. All we really have is the ADECA (grant) program — which works very successfully, it’s a very good program. We like the way it operates. But $20 million a year is not going to solve the problem, which is to get internet access throughout this entire state.”

He explained that the endeavor to expand broadband access to all Alabamians carries a price tag between four and six billion dollars.

“So chipping away $20 million or so a year on a grant program is not going to do it,” Garrett added.

“This is a very serious issue for the state,” he stressed.

Proponents of the bill participating in the hearing included Blake Hardwich, speaking on behalf of the Alabama Rural Broadband Coalition; Jeremy Walker, CEO of the Alabama Association of Realtors; and Sean Strickler, vice president of public affairs for the ‎Alabama Rural Electric Association. Other key industry leaders, such as NFIB Alabama State Director Rosemary Elebash, have also expressed their support for SB 215.

“We’re in full support of SB 215,” emphasized Hardwich. The Alabama Rural Broadband Coalition is comprised of a diverse membership across the business, education, health care and agriculture communities.

“We all believe that SB 215 will benefit the state of Alabama,” she added, speaking to the wide swath the coalition represents. “It is my belief, and our belief, if we continue down the current path that we’re on, Alabama will continue to fall further and further behind. We cannot afford to do that.”

Committee Chairman Randall Shedd (R-Cullman) noted that there is a draft of a substitute version of SB 215 that the committee members have; a final version of that sub is expected to be completed in time for a committee vote next week.

Some potential “tweaks” aside, multiple members of the committee expressed an urgency to bridge the digital divide.

Rep. Debbie Wood (R-Valley) said, “We cannot keep doing business in Alabama without proper internet services.”

She outlined an account of children in her district having to sit in cars parked near a bus with a hotspot during the pandemic to even do school work.

“That’s why we need this,” Wood underscored. “It’s vitally important.”

“We want a plan that’s best for the state, that utilizes all the tools in the toolbox,” Garrett reiterated. “We’re trying to do what’s best to provide internet access throughout the state.”

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

18 mins ago

Auburn’s Unique Thompson selected 19th overall in WNBA draft

Unique Thompson on Thursday evening became the ninth WNBA Draft pick in Auburn University history when she was selected by the Indiana Fever with the 19th overall selection.

Thompson, who attended high school at Mobile’s Faith Academy, was the seventh player taken in the second round.

“I’m excited, I’m happy,” Thompson commented. “The nerves aren’t there anymore. I’m just ready to go. I’m ready to get to work. (Representing Auburn in the WNBA) means so much to me. Auburn is where I started to build my legacy, this is where my hard work began, so it means everything to me.”

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Thompson became the first Auburn Tiger drafted to the WNBA since DeWanna Bonner and Whitney Boddie were selected in 2009.

“I wasn’t even paying attention at first,” Thompson said of when her name was announced on the ESPN broadcast. “And then I heard everybody start screaming, and I was just like, ‘Oh my gosh.’ I kind of expected it (being selected by Indiana), I had a long conversation with them on Zoom the other day and I just got off the phone with Teaira (McCowan), Victoria (Vivians) and a few of my other new teammates. I’m looking forward to getting there and getting started.”

Thompson led the Tigers in 2020-21 with 17.8 points and 12.8 rebounds per game, averaging a double-double for the third straight season. Her 12.8 rebounds per game led the SEC, and her 5.4 offensive rebounds per game led the nation. She was one of two players nationwide to have two games this season with at least 20 points and 20 rebounds. For her efforts this season, she was named to the All-SEC Second Team and a WBCA Honorable Mention All-American.

The Theodore native finished her career Auburn’s all-time leading rebounder with 1,156 and all-time leader in double-doubles with 58.

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

33 mins ago

Montgomery native, Alabama star Jasmine Walker taken No. 7 overall in WNBA draft

Jasmine Walker on Thursday evening was selected by the Los Angeles Sparks with the seventh overall pick in the 2021 Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) Draft.

Walker becomes the seventh Crimson Tide player to be drafted in the WNBA’s 25-year history and just the first since 2005. She is only the second-ever Bama player to go in the first round, joining Tausha Mills, who went No. 2 overall to Washington in 2000.

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This comes after a season for the record books for Walker, who set the program’s single-game scoring mark with 41 points and working her way into every three-point top 10 list. She earned several accolades along the way, including WBCA Honorable Mention All-America honors and SEC All-First Team recognition; Walker also was a finalist for the Katrina McClain Award, which is presented annually to the best power forward in women’s NCAA basketball.

Walker averaged a near double-double in 2020-21 with 19.1 points and 9.4 rebounds per game and was the only player in the SEC to rank in the top five in points and rebounds for the season.

She is a Montgomery native who played her high school ball at Jeff Davis. Walker was named the 2016 Alabama Miss Basketball and the 2016 Gatorade Player of the Year for Alabama.

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

48 mins ago

Aniah’s Law heading to statewide referendum in 2022

The Alabama Legislature on Thursday gave final passage to legislation that would create “Aniah’s Law.”

The legislation, sponsored by State Rep. Chip Brown (R-Mobile), would allow prosecutors and judges broader discretion in requesting and denying bail to those accused of committing violent crimes.

HB 131 is a constitutional amendment and will be up for a statewide referendum of the people in November 2022; HB 130, the enabling bill that would implement the provisions of HB 131, now heads to the governor’s desk.

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The Constitution of Alabama currently requires that “all persons shall, before conviction, be bailable by sufficient sureties, except for capital offenses, when the proof is evident or the presumption great; and that excessive bail shall not in any case be required.”

Brown’s legislation would amend the state constitution to allow judges to deny bail to individuals facing violent crime charges who would place the public at grave risk if released.

The proposed amendment is named after the late Aniah Blanchard, the 19-year-old college student who prosecutors allege was slain by Ibraheed Yazeed after he was released on bond for several violent offenses including kidnapping and attempted murder.

Yazeed, who is currently being held on capital murder charges, had been awarded bail despite more than a dozen priors, which included drug and robbery arrests.

“Too many of those who are accused of violent crimes are bonding out of jail and committing even more serious offenses, and it is time for law-abiding Alabamians to start fighting back,” Brown stated. “Denying bail to those accused of violent offenses is a commonsense answer to a dangerous societal problem, and following three years of hard work that was necessary to pass this amendment through the Legislature, I am confident the citizens of Alabama will vote to ratify it.”

Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson was a major proponent of Brown’s legislation as it worked its way through the legislative process.

“I’d like to commend Representative Chip Brown and Senator David Sessions for supporting us in the three-year effort to see this legislation passed,” Stimpson said on Thursday. “We thank the Blanchard family as well as the entire Alabama Legislature for recognizing the need for this legislation that directly impacts the safety of Alabama citizens. It is now in the hands of Alabamians to vote in favor of this constitutional amendment on the ballot next year. Once passed, this will help significantly in our efforts to close the revolving door and prevent violent offenders from being released to commit more violent acts like the senseless murder of Aniah Blanchard.”

The late Tuscaloosa police officer Dornell Cousette is another example of a prominent case that could have been prevented if Aniah’s Law was in effect. Cousette was killed in the line of duty in 2018 — allegedly murdered by a suspect who was free on bail for robbery and assault charges at the time.

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

14 hours ago

U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers: ‘Shameful’ Pelosi blocking Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act — ‘Simply supporting infanticide’

Congressman Mike Rogers (AL-03) on Wednesday released a scathing statement regarding House Democrats blocking consideration of the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act.

Rogers announced that he has signed onto a discharge petition that would force Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to bring this legislation — H.R. 619 — up for a vote in the House.

“As a father of three children and a Christian, this legislation is so important to me,” stated Rogers, the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee.

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All six Alabama Republicans in the U.S. House are cosponsors of H.R. 619, which was was introduced by Reps. Ann Wagner (R-MO) and Steve Scalise (R-LA) in January. The bill would ensure any baby born that survives an abortion would receive the same standard of medical care as a baby born under normal circumstances.

“I will never understand how any human would not support caring for a tiny, living baby that survives an attempted abortion,” he continued. “Anyone who is okay with not helping these babies is simply supporting infanticide. I will always stand up for the rights of the most innocent among us, and it’s shameful that Nancy Pelosi will not even bring this critical legislation up for a vote.”

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