2 years ago

Ivey admin. seeking to build three new men’s prisons; estimated cost of $900m

Governor Kay Ivey and the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) will request bids for the construction of three new men’s prisons to replace existing facilities, with the administration still undecided on whether to seek funding approval from the state legislature or pursue private leasing.

According to The Montgomery Advertiser, the governor told reporters of the plan in a meeting Tuesday.

Per ADOC Commissioner Jeff Dunn, early estimated construction costs stand at approximately $900 million. If implemented, the proposal would house 3,000 to 3,500 inmates between two facilities. A third would house inmates with special needs, including those needing mental health treatment.

According to ABC 33/40‘s Lauren Walsh, when it comes to how the three prisons will be funded, Ivey advised, “All ideas are on the table.”

This came the day after Judge Myron Thompson wrote in a ruling that Alabama has been “deliberately indifferent” about monitoring the mental health of state inmates placed in the isolation of segregation cells.

Thompson in 2017 wrote that mental health care in state prisons was “horrendously inadequate” and violated the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.

An ADOC spokesman recently told the Associated Press that the department will “evaluate the best approach for constructing the facilities … either through a bond issue, or a build-lease option.”

The spokesman explained that the build-lease option would allow for one or more private firms to construct the facilities to state specifications and then enter into a lease agreement with the state. He said ADOC would maintain operational control and management of the facilities under this type of arrangement.

While the possibility of private leasing has already been met with opposition from state lawmakers, including Rep. Chris England (D-Tuscaloosa), funding avenues that would require legislative approval have previously been stonewalled.

In 2017, former Governor Robert Bentley unsuccessfully sought approval from the state legislature for an $800 million plan to build three new regional prisons for men — as well as a female prison — and to close most existing facilities.

The measure failed to win lawmakers’ approval after they raised concerns about the price tag and local job losses when existing prisons closed.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

44 mins ago

Outdoor Alabama Photo Contest opens August 2

The 2022 Outdoor Alabama Photo Contest will begin accepting entries on Monday, August 2, 2021. This year’s contest is a joint project between the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) and the Alabama Tourism Department. The deadline to enter is October 31, 2021.

The 2022 photo contest will focus on traditional photography techniques and the use of hand-held cameras. No cellphone, smartphone, game camera, or drone photography will be chosen as winning photos for nine of the 10 categories. Smartphone and tablet photos will be accepted in the Young Photographers category.

The photo contest is open to state residents and visitors alike, but qualifying photos must have been taken in Alabama in the past two years. Any amateur photographer not employed by ADCNR is encouraged to enter.

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A total of eight photos per person may be entered in the following categories. You may enter all eight in one category or among several categories.

2022 Outdoor Alabama Photo Contest Categories:
• Alabama State Parks
• Birds
• Bugs and Butterflies
• Cold-blooded Critters
• Nature-Based Recreation
• Scenic
• Shoots and Roots
• Sweet Home Alabama
• Wildlife
• Young Photographers (ages 17 and under)

First, second, third and one honorable mention will be awarded in each category. Winning images will be featured online and in an exhibit traveling to various venues across the state during 2022.

Art teachers are encouraged to incorporate participation in the Young Photographers category into their art instruction this fall.

An exhibit of the 2021 winning photos will be on display at the Johnson Center for the Arts, 300 E. Walnut St., in Troy, Alabama, from August 11, 2021 – September 11, 2021. To view the winning photos online, visit here.

For complete 2022 category descriptions and contest rules, visit www.outdooralabama.com/outdoor-alabama-photo-contest.

3 hours ago

Regions reports second quarter earnings of $748 million based on delivery of ‘solid performance’

Birmingham-based Regions Financial Corporation announced its second quarter 2021 earnings on Friday.

The company reported net income available to common shareholders of $748 million and earnings per diluted share of $0.77. The company’s total revenue grew 2% compared to second quarter 2020.

John Turner, president and CEO of Regions Financial Corporation, sees the opportunity for continued growth.

“Our teams delivered solid performance throughout the second quarter, and as a result of our strategic planning and key investments, we are well positioned to generate long-term, sustainable growth over time,” he said in a release from the company.

He cited growth within the company’s markets as a reason for the encouraging outlook.

“Regions operates in highly attractive markets that are benefiting from favorable population trends and strong employment opportunities,” Turner explained. “In each of these markets, our bankers are serving new and long-term customers through customized financial insights, enhanced technology and a commitment to superior service. We have taken several steps – adding talented bankers, investing in service and delivery channels, and enhancing our capabilities through our bolt-on acquisition strategy – to build on our momentum and create greater value for customers, communities, and shareholders over time.”

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Regions emphasized that its digital investments are generating returns, its business segments are proving resilient amid pandemic recovery conditions and its strategic decisions in high-growth areas, such as Florida, Texas and Tennessee, are delivering results.

The company noted that increased consumer engagement with the bank’s online and mobile banking platforms is generating 9% year-over-year growth in active digital banking users and 13% year-over-year growth in active mobile banking users.

RELATED: Joia M. Johnson appointed to Regions board of directors

Regions Financial Corporation is a member of the S&P 500 Index and is one of the nation’s largest full-service providers of consumer and commercial banking, wealth management, and mortgage products and services.

Regions operates across the South, Midwest and Texas.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

4 hours ago

State Rep. Crawford: Violations of potential Critical Race Theory ban could be fireable offense; ‘Up to leadership’ if it comes up in special session

Another bill banning Critical Race Theory in Alabama’s public schools has been prefiled for the 2022 regular session, the third piece of such legislation, with nearly six months until the legislature reconvenes in Montgomery.

The bill, HB 11, filed by State Rep. Danny Crawford (R-Athens), would prohibit public K-12 schools and institutions of higher learning “from teaching certain concepts regarding race or sex, such as critical race theory.”

During an interview with Mobile radio’s FM Talk 106.5, Crawford explained that should teachers choose to ignore and violate such a ban by the Alabama Legislature, it could result in termination according to current law.

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“We have the teacher tenure laws and the students’ first law,” he explained. “There’s due process that must happen. But, if the legislature chooses to ban the teaching of that, then someone disobeys that ban or decides on their own what they want to do, then there needs to be consequences for that. And our code that deals with due process goes into what those things are. If the school system said we’re not going to teach it, then someone does teach it, is that incompetency, or is that insubordination, or neglect of duty, or failure to perform duties in a satisfactory manner? All of those things are types of disciplinary action that would be subject to termination, which falls into the same category. They all have due process. But I don’t think we need to have our teachers teaching something that the state of Alabama says will not be taught.”

The Limestone County Republican lawmaker also suggested the topic could come up in one of the special sessions rumored to occur before the end of the year, noting that was up to leadership.

“That’s all up to leadership,” he said. “But I do think it’s important to have this in place, whether its — sometimes special sessions, the call, we take other things onto the agenda other than say redistricting or something like that. So, all of these things — it could be added to the call if the Governor felt it was important enough. And I would like to emphasize to the Governor’s office that I think it is important, and I think a lot of my colleagues will, as well. It could be time enough. It could be discussed and passed. And it may not be. Leadership may decide we don’t want to do that. If not, then we’ll look at it in regular session in January.”

@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

7 Things: Masks could come back in Jefferson County, AEA demanding education employees stop criticizing them or be punished at work, Biden wants your kids under 12 vaccinated and more …

7. January 6 committee moving forward

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has called the concerns and complaints from Republicans, such as ones voiced by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), “antics,” and she’s planning to move forward despite these concerns.
  • McCarthy slammed the committee after two of his selections were blocked by Pelosi, and he insisted that Republicans would be forming their own committee to investigate the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

6. Race relations are worse than they have been in 20 years

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  • The media and their Democrats would somehow have you believe that America has become a more racist place every single day and even though this is patently absurd, that accusation is leading 57% of Americans to believe race relations between black and white Americans are “somewhat” or “very” bad.
  • According to Gallup, 70% of black Americans had positive views of race relations in 2001, now only 33% do. Also, 43% of white Americans view race relations positively, compared to 62% in 2001. These stunning drops began in 2013, which was the same year Black Lives Matter was founded.

5. Auburn’s head coach isn’t interested in the media’s vaccination games

  • Auburn football coach Bryan Harsin was recently asked about the team’s coronavirus vaccination rate, which he said the medical staff “has those answers a lot better than I do,” but he said he believes it’s around 60%.
  • Despite the rate being as high as it is, media outlets are qualifying this as a “low” vaccination rate. Harsin has emphasized that getting the vaccine is “deeply personal for a lot of people,” adding, “And so, that’s how we approach it: here’s the information, you make the decision.” Harsin didn’t disclose his vaccination status when asked, and he also mentioned that he would not ask players about whether they’re getting the vaccine.

4. Most Alabama counties are now ‘very high risk’

  • As coronavirus cases in the United States and Alabama have been increasing once again, the Alabama Department of Public Health has now said that 59 of 67 counties in Alabama are considered “red,” which is a very high risk, for spreading the virus.
  • There are currently 602 people hospitalized throughout the state, and in the last 14 days, there have been 9,907 new cases.

3. Biden wants to vaccinate kids under 12 by fall

  • President Joe Biden has met the new push for coronavirus vaccinations for children under the age of 12. He said that the goal is to have something available by “the end of August, beginning of September, October.”
  • Biden added that he believes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will recommend masks for children who are ineligible to get the vaccine, at least while they’re at school, and he declared the issue of being honest about vaccinations “a matter of community responsibility.”

2. AEA is fighting for education employees

  • A cease and desist letter from the Alabama Education Association (AEA) has been sent to Mary Crosby, a local board of education employee, after she criticized Critical Race Theory and the National Education Association (NEA) after she claimed in a post that part of the dues paid to AEA also went to NEA.
  • AEA claimed that Crosby spread false information and she must “retract the false publications” and they also sent a letter to the superintendent, adding that “should you continue to publish libelous materials about AEA, or make false statements about AEA, during work hours, without disciplinary action against you, we will deem your employer to have approved of such activities.” It was, in fact, not a workday for Crosby.

1. Masks could be coming back to Jefferson County

  • Governor Kay Ivey has made statements encouraging people to get the coronavirus vaccine for months but remains very blunt about the topic. Ivey said that in the effort to end the pandemic, “the unvaccinated folks are letting us down.” However, Ivey has no interest in issuing new mandates for masks or shutdowns, while Jefferson County is going in another direction.
  • Jefferson County health officer Dr. Mark Wilson has warned that masks should be considered for public places once again due to the rise in coronavirus cases. It’s anticipated that with a higher case count, hospitalizations and deaths could follow. Wilson said, “The tragic thing is that almost all of these deaths will have been prevented if only these people had been vaccinated.” Some of the media criticism of large gatherings has also returned as cases rise.

6 hours ago

Boeing’s Starliner capsule cleared for launch on ULA’s Atlas V — ‘We are ready to fly’

Teams from NASA and Boeing completed the flight readiness review on Thursday for the Starliner space capsule’s upcoming trip to the International Space Station (ISS).

The unmanned Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) is set to launch from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

Giving Starliner a lift will be United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Atlas V rocket. The Atlas V was built at the company’s 1.6 million square foot manufacturing facility in Decatur. Boeing’s design center in Huntsville has provided all of the structural design for the Starliner, while its Phantom Works division, which has an operation in Huntsville, has provided the power systems for the capsule.

Kathy Lueders, NASA associate administrator, announced completion of the review at a press conference with Boeing officials.

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“These are very important reviews where the station and commercial crew and Boeing teams really stop and scrutinize the work that they have done to get ready for this flight,” Lueders outlined. “After reviewing the team’s data and the readiness of all the parties, everyone said ‘go’ for launch, today, and moving on for the mission. It was an incredibly detailed review and the team really showed all the work that they have done to get us here.”

OFT-2 is the final test before Starliner carries crew into space.

Establishing Starliner as a qualified spacecraft to carry astronauts to the ISS is essential to the program, according to Steve Stich, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

“It is very important for the commercial crew program to have two space transportation systems,” he said. “This will be the second of those.”

SpaceX’s Dragon is already qualified for the program and has flown with crew. It returned to Earth from its most recent mission to the ISS on July 9.

In an effort to maximize the testing opportunities of this flight, ULA’s Atlas V rocket has been configured exactly the same as it will be for crewed flights.

Stich noted that numerous systems will be tested as part of OFT-2, including the rendezvous and docking systems.

“Boeing and NASA teams have worked side-by-side to resolve numerous issues to go through and close our requirements,” he said. “We’re ready to go flying now. It’s an exciting time. This mission is key to the crewed flight.”

A thorough review of the Starliner’s software and hardware has been an ongoing process for Boeing.

“This is not the first day we have been working on readiness,” stated John Vollmer, vice president and program manager for Boeing’s Commercial Crew Program. “We have literally been working on this for months and months. And so this is really the culmination of a lot of hard work by all the teams.”

“We are ready to fly,” he concluded.

A successful OFT-2 will allow NASA and Boeing to move forward with the Starliner’s first crewed mission later this year. NASA astronauts Barry “Butch” Wilmore, Nicole Mann and Mike Fincke have already been selected for the flight to the ISS, a mission which will extend more than two decades of human presence on the orbiting research facility.

In anticipation of their flight, the astronauts have been actively engaged in the readiness process.

Norm Knight, director of NASA’s Flight Operations Directorate, provided his perspective on what OFT-2 will mean for the upcoming crewed flight.

“Spaceflight is hard,” he explained. “It’s definitely not easy. I will just tell you that the crew greatly appreciates the effort by NASA, Boeing and the ULA partnership for safe space flight for our astronauts.”

OFT-2 is scheduled to launch on July 30 and dock at the ISS 24 hours later. It will stay at the ISS until August 5 and return to Earth on the same day with a landing in the New Mexico desert.

It will carry cargo on both legs of its trip.

RELATED: ‘From Alabama to the Moon’ — Richard Shelby is the driving force making America’s space dreams a reality

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia