6 months ago

Ivey signs two major broadband bills into law — ‘Will open a whole new world’

MONTGOMERY — Alabama took an important step forward towards “modernizing” the state on Thursday.

In a packed ceremony inside the Old House Chamber at the State Capitol, Governor Kay Ivey signed two major broadband bills into law: HB 400 by State Rep. Randall Shedd (R-Fairview) and SB 90 by State Sen. Clay Scofield (R-Guntersville).

Before applying pen to paper, Ivey spoke to members of the media and a sizable crowd from the Alabama Rural Broadband Coalition. She said the Yellowhammer State needs to do more to expand high-speed, affordable broadband access, as modern internet capability is crucial to the economy, education, healthcare and quality of life in Alabama.

Last year, Scofield’s Alabama Broadband Accessibility Act created a grant program that really got the ball rolling on improved broadband in the state. Now, the two bills signed on Thursday are expected to keep that momentum moving in the right direction.

“These bills will open a whole new world to so many of our citizens who have been left behind on the information superhighway,” Ivey said. “I congratulate our Legislature for coming together to help make providing broadband internet access easier and more efficient. I look forward to seeing the great strides that our rural citizens will take now that they have the same opportunity as those who live in larger cities.”

HB 400, the Broadband Using Electric Easements Accessibility Act, will allow electricity providers to use or allow the use of existing or future electric easements for broadband purposes.

SB 90 updates and expands Scofield’s Alabama Broadband Accessibility Fund, increasing the minimum service threshold and amending the amount of grants that can be awarded for specific broadband projects.

Scofield advised, “Just as years ago, co-ops and private companies invested in bringing electricity to rural areas across the country to improve quality of life and create jobs for millions, this legislation will continue to expand access to high-speed internet to those same households and businesses, creating new jobs and opportunities in the process.”

The press conference occurred as the House and Senate were both in session, so not all of the staunch proponents in the legislature were able to attend. However, Scofield and Shedd were able to join the governor, along with broadband stalwarts like Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed (R-Jasper), House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville), Black Caucus Chair A.J. McCampbell (D-Livingston), State Sen. Steve Livingston (R-Scottsboro) and State Rep. David Standridge (R-Hayden).

Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) and Speaker Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) also released statements celebrating the bills being signed into law.

“I am thrilled that Gov. Ivey has signed these bills that will be so helpful to our rural constituents,” Marsh said. “More than 840,000 Alabamians have not had access to broadband and therefore have lacked total, fair access to our worldwide economy. I hope to see movement on getting as many people connected as soon as possible.”

McCutcheon called the signing of the bills the beginning of a new day for Alabama jobs.

“Small businesses all across the state can now expect a fair shot at the global economy,” the speaker remarked. “It is an exciting time for the education community, entrepreneurs, for rural health workers and patients who will have access to advances in telemedicine and for our farmers who will benefit immensely from broadband.”

Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth has also been a vocal supporter of improved broadband services in the state throughout his time in public service.

“As someone who once represented a largely rural House district, I know that access to high speed broadband dramatically affects issues like economic development, public school performance, and simple quality of life for residents,” Ainsworth told Yellowhammer News.

“The state must keep and maintain its commitment to rural broadband expansion so that all of our citizens, regardless of where they live, can take part in Alabama’s unprecedented economic boom,” he concluded.

The World Bank commissioned a study in 2014 that showed just a 10% increase in broadband penetration could increase economic growth by 1.2%. That study also concluded that doubling broadband speeds can add 0.3% to GDP growth.

As of late 2018, it was estimated that 800,000 people in Alabama are without access to a wired connection capable of 25mbps download speeds and that 276,000 people in the state still do not have any wired internet providers available at all.

Specifically on SB 90, Reed commented, “This is a critical piece of infrastructure legislation. When people think about infrastructure, it’s traditionally just roads and bridges, but in a digital age that relies heavily on cutting edge technology, investing in expanding and improving broadband is equally as important.”

“This bill sets up rural Alabama for further growth and prosperity, and I thank Senator Scofield for spearheading this important work,” he added.

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

1 hour ago

Alabama AG Steve Marshall leads national coalition defending Second Amendment to SCOTUS

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall continues to be a staunch defender of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

In his latest stalwart act of advocacy for citizens’ right to keep and bear arms, Marshall on Monday filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of the State of Alabama and 20 other states.

The brief calls on the Supreme Court to hear (in Malpasso v. Pallozzi) a challenge to a Maryland law that sharply limits the right of typical, law-abiding citizens to carry a handgun outside of the home.

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In a statement, Marshall commented, “The overwhelming majority of states recognize that the Second Amendment allows law-abiding citizens the right to bear arms outside their homes for self-defense.”

“However, a handful of states have decided that citizens’ rights to possess a handgun outside their residence should apply only to when they meet certain limited criteria,” he outlined. “In this case, a Maryland citizen was denied the fundamental right to self-defense because he failed to convince a bureaucrat that he faced some special danger to his safety.”

Marshall continued, “But the right to bear arms is not reserved for just a select few citizens. And there is no question that the Second Amendment right to ‘bear arms’ extends beyond the home. As Justice Clarence Thomas memorably put it: ‘I find it extremely improbable that the Framers understood the Second Amendment to protect little more than carrying a gun from the bedroom to the kitchen.’”

The States of Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and West Virginia joined on to Alabama’s amicus brief.

“A few states have passed laws similar to Maryland’s that severely limit Second Amendment rights, and those laws are rightfully being challenged in federal court as unconstitutional,” Marshall concluded. “Alabama and 20 other states call on the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case of Malpasso v. Pallozzi and decide whether laws that deny law-abiding citizens the right to bear arms infringe on Second Amendment rights.”

Alabama Solicitor General Edmund LaCour and Deputy Solicitor General Barrett Bowdre signed onto Marshall’s amicus brief. LaCour is listed as the counsel of record.

RELATED: Steve Marshall takes issue with multi-state lawsuit to keep 3D-printed gun plans off the internet

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

1 hour ago

Roby: Alabama bicentennial amplified by current ‘extreme economic development and job growth’

U.S. Rep. Martha Roby (AL-02) on Tuesday joined Alabama’s entire U.S. House delegation in honoring the Yellowhammer State’s upcoming bicentennial anniversary on the chamber floor.

In a speech, Roby introduced H. Res. 711, which recognizes the incorporation of Alabama as the 22nd state in the Union on December 14, 1819.

Reps. Bradley Byrne (AL-01), Mike Rogers (AL-03), Robert Aderholt (AL-04), Mo Brooks (AL-05), Gary Palmer (AL-06) and Terri Sewell (AL-07) joined Roby in commemorating the historic milestone.

Roby’s remarks not only mentioned the marker of Alabama’s statehood but lauded its current progress.

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“This is a monumental occasion in our state’s history, and we are looking forward to joining Alabamians in a year full of memorable celebration and commemoration of the bicentennial,” she said. “Alabama is currently experiencing extreme economic development and job growth across the state, which makes this special time even more exciting for us all.”

This comes after it was announced on Friday that Alabama’s unemployment rate dipped below 3% for the first time ever. The state has been breaking economic records consistently, with each month seemingly bringing even better news. The main focus now for the state’s economy is workforce development efforts to increase Alabama’s pool of skilled workers.

Roby, who is not seeking reelection to a sixth term, concluded, “I am grateful to have the opportunity to serve the people of Alabama as we celebrate the birthday and history of the beloved state we all call home.”

Watch:

You can learn more about Alabama’s bicentennial here, including special events across the state.

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

2 hours ago

Technology services veteran appointed to lead State of Alabama’s IT operations

Governor Kay Ivey on Tuesday announced that Marty Redden will serve as the permanent Alabama Office of Information Technology (OIT) secretary effective immediately. Redden has been serving as the acting secretary since July.

In a statement, Ivey said, “Since Marty stepped in to OIT as the acting secretary, he has run the agency effectively and with great prudence, and the state will certainly benefit from his leadership in this position. I am confident Marty will continue refining the agency, to make it run successfully and be accountable to the people of Alabama.”

“His decades of experience in the technology field is already paying off for OIT and our other state agencies, which is why I am proud that he will continue serving in this capacity,” she advised.

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Redden has three decades of experience in the IT field, include 20 years in management.

He began his career in banking and finance technology. In 2007, he transitioned to a career in state service. Redden has since held high-level management positions in the Alabama Department of Corrections, the Alabama Medicaid Agency and the state Finance Department. While working with each of these agencies, Redden originated, led and implemented technology advancements and improvements, per a release from the governor’s office.

Redden remarked, “As secretary of OIT, my overriding mission is to provide Alabama’s state government with the best technology services at the smallest cost to the taxpayers we serve. Every service that the state provides to its citizens involve some form of technology, so if we do our job well, countless Alabamians will get the help they need more quickly, efficiently and effectively.”

“I appreciate the confidence Governor Ivey has placed in me and will work every day to prove it justified,” he concluded.

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

3 hours ago

Tua needs our support — Guess who else does

His five words hit home.

Five words that could have been uttered by a Tua Tagovailoa teammate, one of Tua’s parents, an Alabama football fan and, yes, you.

“I feel bad, I’m hurting.”

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Who doesn’t feel bad for one of the greatest quarterbacks not only in Alabama football history, but in college football history? Barring an unlikely return to the Capstone for his senior season, Tua is done in Tuscaloosa. The good news? While it will be a long road, team orthopedic surgeon Dr. Lyle Cain expects Tagovailoa to make a full recovery from the hip injury suffered only days ago. Yes, Tua’s NFL future is bright.

“I feel bad, I’m hurting.”

Those five words could have been uttered by anyone, but the man who said it? Head coach Nick Saban. Yes, the tough, demanding, intimidating coach who rarely reveals his most inner thoughts is hurting, and he shared his heart in Tuscaloosa at his weekly media gathering.

Over the last few days, Saban has been a punching bag for many critics and some fans — their take? The coach is to be blamed for Tua’s injury. After all, they say, it was Saban who had the final say in whether or not his quarterback, still sore from the LSU game and a player who 27 days earlier had ankle surgery, would start against Mississippi State. It was Saban who left Tua in the game despite a big Bama lead deep into the first half of the game. It was Saban who is ultimately responsible for the injury, they allege.

I say hogwash. I say that Nick Saban didn’t hurt Tua, football did.

The bottom line here is that Tua Tagovailoa could have suffered an injury getting off the bus. He could have been injured on his first snap, his final snap or anywhere in between. That’s the cruel sport of football, where injuries occur, even when they are not in the least connected to an earlier injury.

As Tua now begins rehab following Monday’s hip surgery, prayers and well wishes continue to come his way. But I’m here to tell you that Tua’s coach could use some support as well. On the exterior, Nick Saban is all business, the man in charge. He spends long hours at work between 7:30 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. doing what he does. But you can bet that when the coach makes his long, dark drive home late at night, when he tries to fall asleep and when he rises early in the morning, Tua Tagovailoa is on his mind. Is he second-guessing himself? If he is, he shouldn’t be. Do the critics bother him? Remember, even the toughest man on the block has feelings.

Only Nick Saban, Miss Terry and a handful of close friends know what the coach is feeling. As we see a coach who is all business, a coach who has a tough exterior and a no-nonsense flare, I have a strong feeling that Nick Saban is struggling a bit this week. My message? As we pray for Tua and wish him well, perhaps the Alabama football coach can also use our support.

“I feel bad, I’m hurting.”

With those five words, Nick Saban offered us a rare glimpse into his heart. May the Alabama family be reminded that the head of the family can use a few prayers as well.

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.

3 hours ago

Doug Jones spends big on Facebook ads deriding Sessions

Over the last three weeks, Sen. Doug Jones’ (D-AL) reelection campaign has invested in ads mentioning former Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The majority of the advertisements are fundraising appeals viewed by people outside of Alabama.

According to data from the Facebook Ads library, the Jones campaign has spent $12,844 promoting 183 different ads between October 29 and November 15. All but one of the ads mention Sessions, who held Jones’ Senate seat before serving as attorney general, by name and argue that he is too divisive of a figure for Alabama.

Of the $12,844 spent in total, $4,219, or 33%, was spent advertising to Alabamians.

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Nearly all of the Facebook ads include an appeal to donate to the Jones campaign. It would seem Jones’ team believes that the stir created by Sessions’ entrance to the race will have supporters of Jones opening their wallets.

The Jones team adopted a similar strategy when his 2017 opponent Roy Moore entered the race in June. During the time the Jones campaign ran ads about Moore entering the race, they received 338 contributions for a total of $158,877.03, per FEC data.

The Sessions ads make up around 30% of Jones’ Facebook expenditures this cycle. The Jones campaign has spent $42,735 on Facebook ads since May 2018.

The Jones campaign has a much greater reach on Facebook than any of its competitors.

(Yellowhammer/Henry Thornton) (Followers accurate as of noon 11/19)

Sessions formally announced his candidacy for his old Senate seat on November 7, but the news of an announcement actually leaked out in the preceding days.

The ads align with the central theme on the Jones campaign: That Jones wants to be a unifier, while the Republicans running are too extreme.

The majority of the ads tie Sessions to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, of whom polling in 2017 showed was unpopular in Alabama even among conservatives. McConnell’s popularity may have ticked up since then as the native Alabamian has successfully led the historic push to confirm conservative judges appointed by President Donald Trump.

(Courtesy of Facebook Ads Library)

The Jones team has not mentioned by name in their ads Coach Tommy Tuberville, Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope), Secretary of State John Merrill or State Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs) — all of whom are also seeking the Republican nomination.

Sessions has won five statewide elections in Alabama, first as attorney general in 1994 and then the U.S. Senate in 1996, followed by reelection in 2002, 2008 and 2014.

Trump nominated Sessions to be his first attorney general. Sessions served in that role from the beginning of the administration in 2017 until the president asked for his resignation in November 2018.

Jones won election to the Senate in a special election in 2017 to fill the open seat created by Sessions’ appointment as America’s top law enforcement officer.

UPDATE 4:30 p.m.:

In a statement to Yellowhammer News, Sessions campaign manager Jon Jones said, “Doug Jones is right to be worried about Jeff Sessions. He knows that Jeff will beat him next fall. Bring it on.”

“Since joining the race, the far-left Democrats and their water carriers in the media have attacked Mr. Sessions everyday. Former Vice President Joe Biden, Senator Kamala Harris, Mayor Pete, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, MSNBC, CNN, and many others have already voiced their opposition to his election. They are right to be worried,” Jones added.

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