6 months ago

Infrastructure, law enforcement highlight Bedsole-Penhale House District 49 showdown

Earlier this year, State Rep. April Weaver (R-Brierfield) resigned her spot in the legislature to take a job in the Trump administration.

That meant a special election for constituents in House District 49, which includes parts of Shelby, Chilton and Bibb Counties, and is a solidly Republican district that consists of a mix of suburban and rural areas.

On August 4, Russell Bedsole and Mimi Penhale emerged as the top vote-getters in a Republican primary and will compete on Tuesday for the Republican Party’s nomination in a runoff election.

Bedsole, an Alabaster city councilman, touted his law enforcement and city government experiences, which he said would be an asset if elected to the Alabama House of Representatives. He expressed his desire to make law enforcement and first responders at the forefront.

“I’ve had a tremendous opportunity over the last weeks, couple of months, actually, to really hear from the people of District 49 and what’s important to them — things like safe communities,” Bedsole said in an interview with Yellowhammer News. “And as a law and order candidate, they’re absolutely getting a guy they need that is going to do those things to deliver for them in Montgomery, that is going to keep their communities safe, that is going to work well with the law enforcement community and the first responders as well.”

“Most homes are talking about that,” he continued. “They see what’s going on around the country and very openly tell me they don’t want that to happen here in this district in the state of Alabama. I think they’re really searching after a guy who is not a politician, who is not a Montgomery insider, that has spent his adult career working as a public servant — as a public servant who has been upholding the laws, enforcing the laws of the state. You combine that with eight years, that is two terms, as a city councilor in Alabaster, and you’ve got someone who has the experience of knowing what happens out on the street but also be able to know how to create policy put these things into place. It’s a beautiful marriage to put together these two things that are facets of my life that have come together that have uniquely positioned me to be a candidate that the people of this district are really wanting.”

For Penhale, who is married to the grandson of long-time former Helena Mayor Sonny Penhale, the district’s infrastructure deficiencies are on her radar as a legislative priority. She cited the diversity of the economy of House District 49, which presents a variety of needs.

“I think throughout the entire district, there are infrastructure issues,” Penhale said in a phone conversation with Yellowhammer News. “For years and years these roads and bridges have been neglected – and now there’s been an uptick, if you’re in the Shelby County area, an uptick on use from families and neighborhoods that are being built in those areas. And those roads aren’t necessarily capable of handling the number of people who are utilizing them currently, which is also a strain and stress on providing businesses for those families.”

“Helena does not have an interstate access, so they have particular issues that are different from this district itself,” she continued. “But you’re seeing those infrastructure issues there. But over in Bibb and Chilton County, you’re seeing an increase in businesses and trucks that are utilizing those roads – that are logging trucks, or these trucks that are associating with industry. And the infrastructure, in general, is just not able to hold the capacity, whether it be for families or for business.”

With COVID-19 still playing a role in everyone’s life, both Bedsole and Penhale addressed state government policy and the disruptions that stem from it.

For Bedsole, the public’s ability to worship freely without restrictions was important.

“I think the people of this district have a tremendous spirit about them, and they’re just ready to get back to work, back to school, and get back to their worship,” Bedsole explained. “And not necessarily in that order because I think many of them are definitely seeking out their worship as a big priority, and then getting back to work.”

Penhale had raised rural broadband connectivity as a need for the district and pointed to the economics of the coronavirus downturn.

“We’ve also heard concerns about the shutdown in general, and how it’s endangering these small businesses – more so than some of the large businesses,” she said. “But I think we’re seeing a trickle-down at this point. Some of the larger businesses are having to layoff individuals and are moving to an online option. Again, we’re not able to cater to these areas because we don’t have an online option.”

However, she also noted despite the trend toward normalcy, people were still concerned about state government overreach.

“I think people are happy to be getting back to work,” Penhale said. “I think they’re happy to be getting back to normal. I was at a football game last week, and I could tell everybody there was just happy to be back to something was normal or something that resembled normal life.”

“There is a turn currently going on,” she continued. “Now has this turn happened as most people would like to have seen? No. People are still concerned about the government and what overreach looks like and what we should be doing as a state, encouraging as opposed to mandating.”

When asked to make a closing argument for his candidacy, Bedsole emphasized his law enforcement experience, particularly given the national political environment regarding police.

“As a career law enforcement official of 22 years, I’ve been able to serve our community in that capacity,” he said. “And you combine that with eight fantastic years of leading the city council of the city of Alabaster — and those two things uniquely position me as a candidate, number one, as a law-and-order candidate. I’ve lived it. I am the blue, so I back the blue. We’re going to do things to support our police chiefs, our sheriffs, and also, our friends at the fire departments and first responders, EMS. The other component of that is the ability to know what to do with all that information.”

He also claimed having worked in Alabaster city government made him equipped to serve his constituents in Montgomery, not for Montgomery.

“With eight years on the city council, we’ve put it into practice,” he added. “I’ll be able to offer that unique perspective in Montgomery when we have those challenging situations that affect back home. You need to remember that we’re always here to represent our district to Montgomery, but we should never try to represent Montgomery back to our district. When I represent my district back in Montgomery, I’ll have unique experience to be able to do so, both from the law enforcement perspective, but also someone who has served his city on the city council.”

Penhale pointed to her service as the legislative director for the Shelby County legislative delegation and being a young conservative woman as reasons for voters to consider candidacy has a choice on Tuesday.

“I’m an interesting candidate in that I’m young, but I have nine years experience working with legislators and within state government,” Penhale added. “I have a knowledge base that most people running for office do not have. I have experience and understanding in a broad range of knowledge from what I have done that I can bring something to the table early on as opposed to having to take years to do this job to help constituents. And coming from this place of service, I think it will be good for my constituents in that it shows that I am already ready to listen, and I’m already here.”

“I also think being a young conservative woman is a voice we don’t have in the legislature,” she continued. “It’s not young conservative women don’t exist. It’s that we’re busy. I mean, we’re raising our children. We’re balancing the books at our homes. We’re making education decisions for our families. And so, for many young women, it’s not an option. For me, already having been involved and already knowing what it takes to be a legislator, I think that’s a valuable perspective to have and that we haven’t seen.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5

4 hours ago

Alabama basketball completes the sweep against Auburn

Fresh off of winning the SEC regular season championship for the first time in 19 years, the Alabama Crimson Tide on Tuesday completed a sweep of Auburn for the first time in six years after defeating the Tigers at home 70-58.

Jayden Shackelford led the way for Alabama in Tuscaloosa, as the talented sophomore guard went 5-9 from behind the arc to finish with 23 total points in the win over Auburn.

Sophomore Jahvon Quinerly scored 11 points off of the bench and provided sparks for Alabama in crucial moments of the game.

While Alabama led by as much as 16 points in the first half, Auburn was able to cut the lead to five in the second. However, Alabama’s defense began to stiffen up, and seniors Herbert Jones and John Petty stalled the Tiger’s offense out before they could get too hot.

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For the Tide, the three-ball has become a major part of their offense. Second-year head coach Nate Oats always tells his players to get at least one touch in the paint first before shooting. This green-light mentality is becoming more and more popular throughout college hoops.

Bama has done really well with this philosophy by becoming one of the most dominant teams from downtown in the conference. Tuesday’s game showed that even when the three doesn’t come through for the Tide, they have other ways of scoring.

Alabama drove the basketball extremely well in the second half against Auburn and proved to be the more physical team in their win on Tuesday night. When tournament time begins, they may have to lean on this more physical style of play in certain games.

The Tide have one more regular season game against Georgia in Athens on Saturday. Bama will look to finish the regular season on a win before the SEC Tournament in Nashville gets underway.

The Tide are currently projected to be a two seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football and college basketball writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.

5 hours ago

Alabama House recap: Bills to increase executive branch oversight, update sex ed language pass chamber

MONTGOMERY – The Alabama House of Representatives met Tuesday and passed six pieces of legislation, including bills that would increase oversight of executive branch agencies and update language in the state’s policy on sex education.

After convening shortly after 1:00 p.m. the chamber spent much of the next five hours in extended debate on two bills, with members of the Democratic Party engaging in protracted discussions of legislation they began their remarks saying they would ultimately vote for.

Seeing the most debate were HB 392 from Rep. Mike Jones (R-Andalusia) and HB 103 from Rep. Jamie Kiel (R-Russellville).

Jones’ bill creates a joint legislative committee to oversee large financial agreements made by the executive branch, and Kiel’s would prevent the state government from picking which businesses close during states of emergency.

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More information on Kiel’s bill is available here.

The legislation from Jones, chair of the powerful Rules Committee, would create the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Obligation Transparency. The committee would have the authority to approve or disapprove of contracts, leases and agreements by the executive branch and the agencies therein.

Under the proposed law the committee would meet to review any financial agreement greater than $10 million or 5% of the agency’s annual appropriation from the State General Fund.

Making up the committee would be the chair, vice-chair and ranking minority members of the committees in each legislative chamber that oversee taxation.

The proposed oversight committee would be able to meet when the legislature is in or out of session. It would have to issue approval or disapproval within 45 days of a state agency submitting a proposed contract.

If the proposed committee disapproved of a contract it would be delayed from going into effect until the end of the current or next occurring general session of the legislature.

Jones noted in remarks on the floor that this delay would give lawmakers time to address via legislation the proposal disapproved of by the committee, and added that new legislation would be required to put a halt to any state contract of which the proposed committee disapproved.

HB 392 ultimately received unanimous support in the House, with a final vote of 98-0.

Also passing the House on Tuesday was HB 385 sponsored by Rep. Laura Hall (D-Huntsville). The bill updates language in the legal code that governs how Alabama educators must teach sex ed.

It also deletes from the Code of Alabama language that requires those teaching sex ed to emphasize that “homosexuality is not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public and that homosexual conduct is a criminal offense under the laws of the state.”

Rep. Terri Collins (R-Decatur) and Rep. Charlotte Meadows (R-Montgomery), two staunch conservatives with backgrounds in education policy, spoke in favor of the legislation on the House floor and voted for its passage. The bill passed the House on a vote of 69-30.

Three other pieces of lower profile legislation passed the chamber on Tuesday:

HB 255 from Rep. Randall Shedd (R-Cullman) that would add a tenth member to the advisory board of directors of the Department of Senior Services, and let ex officio members name a designee to serve in their place.

HB 330 from Rep. Alan Baker (R-Brewton) that would change the outdated language in the state legal code concerning video depositions in criminal prosecutions.

HB 136 from Rep. Chip Brown (R-Hollinger’s Island) that would designate the aquarium at Dauphin Island Sea Lab as the Official Aquarium of Alabama.

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

8 hours ago

Alabama House passes bill that would block the government from picking and choosing which establishments close during states of emergency

MONTGOMERY – The Alabama House of Representatives passed a bill on Tuesday that would prevent the state government from designating which types of businesses were allowed to stay open in situations such as the one experienced during the advent of the coronavirus pandemic in the spring of 2020.

Sponsored by Rep. Jamie Kiel (R-Russellville), HB103 would not infringe on the governor or state health officer’s ability to implement public health guidance. It would only say that any business or house of worship that followed public health guidelines would be allowed to open.

“I think if it is safe enough to go to the liquor store and wear a mask and socially distance, then it is safe enough to go to church and wear a mask and socially distance,” argued Kiehl on the House floor.

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The vote on the floor was 75 in favor and 22 opposed with three members abstaining.

The bill applies to declared states of emergency that involve a “pandemic, epidemic, bioterrorism event, or the appearance of a novel or previously controlled or eradicated infectious disease or biological toxin,” per the text of the legislation.

In explaining what inspired him to author the legislation, Kieh said of last spring, “I saw businesses in my town that were suffering,” adding that some small business owners he knew were “scared to death they were going to lose their livelihoods.”

Governor Ivey’s “Stay At Home” order, in place for most of April 2020, allowed major retailers like Walmart to remain open while smaller retail stores that did not sell groceries were forced to close.

Kiehl feels that this arrangement was unfair, and that small shops and establishments deserved the chance to stay open if able to implement the health guidelines. Ivey has expressed regret in recent months about creating the distinction between “essential” and “non-essential” businesses.

“[W]hat we were really doing is were we driving all the customers that would have been in all these other stores — in the small mom-and-pops, the Hibbetts of the world — we were driving all those to one central location to buy clothing. That cannot be good for the spread of the pandemic — to bring everybody together in one location or a few locations,” Kiel told FM Talk 106.5’s “The Jeff Poor Show.”

The National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) is strongly supporting the passage of the legislation.

Kiel’s bill now heads to the Senate for further consideration.

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

9 hours ago

Alabama Senate passes Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act

MONTGOMERY — On a party line vote, the Alabama Senate on Tuesday passed SB 10, the Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act.

Sponsored by Sen. Shay Shelnutt (R-Trussville), the bill would ban the performance of medical procedures and the prescription of puberty-blocking medications and sex-change hormones used as transgender therapies for minors, with certain exceptions.

The vote was 23-4, with the only four Democrats present all dissenting: Sens. Billy Beasley (D-Clayton), Vivian Figures (D-Mobile), Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro) and Rodger Smitherman (D-Birmingham).

Shelnutt, since first introducing a version of the legislation last year, has said his goal in bringing the bill was to simply protect children from making harmful longterm decisions that they may later regret once more mature.

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“The primary concern here is the health and well-being of Alabama’s children,” stated Shelnutt. “We must protect vulnerable minors who do not have the mental capacity to make life-altering decisions of this caliber. The efficacy and effects of these particular surgeries and methods of treatment are not well-sustained by medical evidence, and actions of this severity cannot be undone.”

“I believe it is our responsibility as lawmakers to do all we can to keep our children out of harm’s way,” he added. “Protecting minors from these powerful drugs and consequential procedures will help ensure they do not feel responsible to make a decision they may wish to later undo, ultimately causing more harm.”

The House Judiciary Committee last week approved as amended the lower chamber’s companion version of the bill, which is sponsored by Rep. Wes Allen (R-Troy). HB 1 now awaits consideration on the House floor.

In response to the passage of SB 10, Scott McCoy — SPLC interim deputy director for LGBTQ Rights & Special Litigation — released a statement.

“The Alabama State Senate is dangerously close to passing yet another piece of discriminatory legislation that likely will lead to long and expensive litigation at high cost to Alabama taxpayers,” McCoy decried.

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

10 hours ago

Alabama GOP Senate candidate Lynda Blanchard: 2020 election ‘stolen from President Trump’

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Lynda Blanchard on Tuesday called upon the Alabama House Constitution, Campaigns, and Elections Committee to vote down a bill that would legalize no-excuse absentee voting in the state, among other alterations of Alabama’s elections laws.

The committee is set to meet on Wednesday regarding HB 396, which is sponsored by State Rep. Laura Hall (D-Huntsville). The bill was originally backed by Secretary of State John Merrill, although he has now withdrawn his support for the measure.

Blanchard served in the administration of President Donald J. Trump as his ambassador to Slovenia, the home country of then-First Lady Melania Trump.

The Montgomery resident is Alabama’s only declared U.S. Senate candidate ahead of the 2022 race to replace retiring U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL). Blanchard in a written statement said HB 396 significantly weakens Alabama’s absentee balloting rules.

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“Absentee balloting invites corruption, cheating, and fraud, so it should be allowed only in rare and unavoidable cases,” she said. “The bill that has been introduced in the Legislature leaves the door wide open for ballot harvesting and other abuses that allowed the recent presidential election to be stolen from President Trump.”

“The bill also begins a dangerous process of watering down Alabama’s election laws, which could lead to the repeal of our photo voter ID requirements and other safeguards that Republicans have put in place,” Blanchard continued.

She concluded, “Alabama should focus on strengthening, not weakening, our honest election reforms, and we certainly shouldn’t implement no-excuse absentee voting, which is often used by liberal Democrats who have refined election fraud and ballot stuffing into an art form.”

Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth (R-AL) and Congressman Mo Brooks (AL-05) have already voiced opposition to HB 396.

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