8 months ago

Marsh, Reed celebrate historic education proposal, Common Core repeal heading to referendum

MONTGOMERY — Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) and Majority Leader Greg Reed (R-Jasper) on Friday hailed the final passage of Marsh’s historic overhaul of the state school board, with Marsh saying that voters will now have the option to “put the power back where it belongs, in the hands of educators.”

SB 397 will be up for referendum on Alabama’s March 2020 primary election ballot.

In a statement after the House put the final stamp of approval on the proposal, Marsh said, “This is a great day for education in Alabama. In the spring the voters will have the opportunity to fundamentally reform education in this state unlike we have seen at any point in the past 50 years and move to a system that has proven to work in the states who are top ranked in education across the country.”

Alabama’s public education system was ranked number 50 in the United States in a report published this month.

“For far too long our children and our teachers have been held hostage and used as a bargaining chip and we have seen the sad results- last in the country in education,” Marsh explained.

SB 397 joins on the 2020 primary ballot another Marsh-sponsored constitutional amendment which would clarify that only United States citizens have the right to vote in Alabama elections.

“Next March, the voters will have the chance to send a strong message that enough is enough,” he outlined. “We want a school board that is capable of making decisions in the best interests of our schools, a school board that has the interests of our teachers and students at heart and a school board this resembles the face of education in this state.”

Remainder of Marsh’s statement as follows:

I believe our students learn best when innovation is allowed to take place in the classroom. That is not happening with our current system. If we have a school board that is made up of qualified individuals, we can increase local control and significantly reduce the amount of time the Legislature spends on education reform and put the power back where it belongs, in the hands of educators.

Finally, the voters will have the opportunity to remove the last vestiges of the failed common core standards. Like many, I wanted to give common core a chance to work but it is beyond obvious to anyone paying attention that it has not been a success. Repeal and replacing this failed system with strong standards, put forward by a reasonable school board, will only improve the quality of education for our students and put Alabama back on the right track of making our education system competitive on a national level.

I want to thank everybody in the Legislature who supported this bold reform. Change is never easy, yet members of the House and the Senate supported this legislation regardless of political party, economic status, race or gender. Every member of the Legislature who voted for this showed that they believe our children and their education come first and I thank them all for their support.

I also want to thank Governor Ivey. As I have stated in the past, there is nobody else in the state who could have built such a broad coalition of support. I truly believe that this is a watershed moment for education in Alabama and I thank her for her leadership.

Governor Kay Ivey was a major early proponent of SB 397, as was Reed.

In a statement Friday, Reed lamented,”Test scores in Alabama’s schools have been lagging behind the national average.”

“Teachers in the classroom are working very hard, doing everything they can to give students a chance at success,” he continued. “We need to make sure that Alabama’s teachers have strong support, from the top down in the educational system.”

“Close to 40 states already have appointed school boards of education, including some of the states with the highest educational rankings in the nation,” Reed concluded. “This is a solid reform — I appreciate Senator Marsh for moving this bill forward, Governor Kay Ivey for supporting it, and I urge the voters of Alabama to approve its passage in March.”

Read more about the bill here.

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

10 mins ago

Artificial reef teeming with life in Gulf of Mexico

An artificial reef created in the Gulf of Mexico four years ago appears to be teeming with life.

In 2016, two of Alabama Power’s retired boilers were sunk off the coast of Mobile County to improve the marine ecosystem. The giant steel structures previously used to turn steam into power have also proven to be a boon for offshore anglers.

“We put the reef down in the water that day, and it looks like you are just putting in something not useful and, now to see it flourish as a fish habitat and all the wildlife that’s there, it’s actually exciting,” said Susan Comensky, Alabama Power vice president for Environmental Affairs. “It’s a great success, and we are so grateful for what everybody brought to the table to make it a success.”

For decades, thousands of man-made objects, like old ships and concrete bridge rubble, have been sunk off the Alabama coastline. The 200,000-pound boilers were sunk from a barge donated by Cooper/T. Smith Corp., a marine transportation firm headquartered in Mobile.

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Artificial reef off Alabama coast is full of marine life from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

The state’s artificial reef zone stretches almost from Florida to Mississippi and out 60 miles from shore. The result is one of the country’s best places for offshore fishing.

“We have several thousand (artificial) reefs off the coast of Alabama, and we have the biggest and best red snapper fishery in the world,” said Chris Blankenship, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources commissioner. “We have built an incredible fishery off the coast of Alabama that is really unrivaled anywhere in the Gulf of Mexico or, really, in the country.”

The reefs have been a boon for the fish and the state’s economy.

“Every weekend that the red snapper fishery is open, as well as amberjack, gray triggerfish, vermillion snapper, there are people with thousands of boats that buy gas and bait and stay in hotel rooms. All of that adds to quite a big economic impact for the coastal areas of our state,” Blankenship said.

However, it’s not just anglers that are drawn to the reefs.

“A wide range of user groups can benefit from this reef – recreational anglers, commercial anglers and any kind of eco-tourism, things like scuba divers and underwater photography,” said Craig Newton, biologist with the Alabama Marine Resources Division.

The project is an example of what can be done when people work together for a common cause, planners say.

“What it does is allows all of us to maximize our resources to accomplish great things and do so in a way that our members and the people of Alabama can benefit,” said Tim Gothard, executive director of the Alabama Wildlife Federation.

The coordinates for the reef are 29 47.544, 87 59.104.

Find out more about the Marine Resources Division by visiting its Facebook page.

(Courtesy of Alabama News Center)

11 hours ago

Jones ‘really troubled’ that Trump’s legal team ‘treating this like defending a criminal case’

Following the first day of President Donald Trump’s legal team making their case to the Senate in the president’s impeachment trial, Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) on Saturday afternoon released yet another video update.

The latest video came after Jones on the day previous called the evidence presented by the Democratic House impeachment managers “compelling.”

Jones’  Saturday video specified that he found Democratic arguments about both impeachment articles as “compelling.”

“Number one, I still think the House [impeachment managers] made a compelling argument on both Article One and Article Two last night,” Jones outlined. “You probably already read all the news, I thought they did a pretty good job of pulling all the evidence together that points to their burden of proof in Article One and Article Two.”

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“Today, I was hoping to hear a lot of facts from the [president’s legal team], and we did hear some facts from the president’s counsel,” he continued. “Some facts that didn’t bring out — there was nothing really new for me because I spent a lot of time going through the transcripts and the evidence. And so there were not a whole lot of surprises to me.”

Jones then said, “There were a couple of things, though, that really troubled me a lot. Number one: I do not appreciate the fact that the president’s counsel immediately started out talking not about House managers and their case but about House Democrats, playing to the partisan nature of the entire country. [From] the very beginning of this, I asked people to go out of their partisan corners. I thought that the House managers did a pretty good job of that. But immediately the president’s folks, playing I assume to the president and his base, immediately started talking — and they did it repeatedly — talked about House Democrats.”

“I am not a Senate Democrat in this instance, I am a United States Senator charged with a responsibility of trying to do impartial justice,” Jones added. “So I don’t care to hear the partisan rhetoric. That’s number one.”

“Number two: the president’s counsel seems to be treating this like defending a criminal case,” Alabama’s junior senator further explained. “That’s how I take this. Even though this is not a trial in that sense, it’s certainly not a criminal case.”

Jones subsequently opined that during the Senate impeachment trial, the burden of proof does not completely fall on the House impeachment managers, unlike how it would on the prosecution in a criminal trial.

Jones later claimed that having witnesses testify during the Senate impeachment trial would actually “speed up” the process rather than delay it.

He then remarked, “I go back to the abuse of power. And I go back to foreign, national security that we have here. That’s where these witnesses are so, so important. Because as you will hear over the next day or so, so much of what the president’s lawyers said is pretty disingenuous about withholding aid…”

Jones said, “With all due respect, the [president’s] phone call on July 25 was not perfect.”

He raised the “serious issue” of what Rudy Giuliani and Lev Parnas were doing in Ukraine ahead of July 25.

“So, with all of that, I’m still waiting for facts that contradict — that completely dispute some of the House managers,” Jones commented in his conclusion. “And those witnesses may exist. They may exist. It may exist in the form of John Bolton and Mick Mulvaney and Mr. Duffey and others; let’s hear them.”

Watch:

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

14 hours ago

Roby: We must stand for life

Every year, thousands of Americans gather in our nation’s capital to participate in the March for Life. This annual event is an opportunity for pro-life advocates from across the country to join together and demonstrate their concern for protecting all life.

With a single ruling, the Supreme Court deemed abortion legal throughout the United States. We are now 47 years removed from the infamous Roe v. Wade decision, and the advocates for life around the country are stronger than ever.

Many traveled far and wide to be in Washington for this year’s March, which occurred this past week. I know that some pro-life supporters traveled from Alabama’s Second District – almost 900 miles – to defend the unborn.

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It’s no secret that I am unapologetically pro-life. That is a belief I have always held close to my heart, and I have made it known since my first day in Congress.

I believe that human life begins at conception, and our laws and policies should reflect a commitment to protecting life at every stage. I feel a strong responsibility to do everything in my power to fight for the unborn.

This platform I have been given is a special opportunity to stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves.

I have repeatedly spoken out in the House of Representatives regarding my strong opposition to abortion, and I have proudly cosponsored several pro-life bills in Congress. I have always been and will always remain a strong advocate against American taxpayer dollars being used to fund abortions and aiding in the destruction of human life.

As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I have helped craft legislation that directs federal funding away from organizations like Planned Parenthood and instead toward community health and women’s organizations that provide family planning care in place of abortions.

While not everyone here in Congress may share my convictions about life or certain policies surrounding the rights of unborn children, our pro-life momentum is still powerful. We now live in a society where abortion activists are celebrating victories for so-called “women’s health” when it comes to this issue, though we have recently seen several pro-life victories across the nation.

Governor Kay Ivey signed the Alabama Human Life Protection Act into law in May 2019 banning abortion in the state of Alabama at any stage of pregnancy. This piece of legislation was a significant step taken to advance the pro-life agenda in the state. Additionally, a 2014 Louisiana abortion law will come before the Supreme Court this spring, and it could be a potential vehicle for the Supreme Court to revisit Roe v. Wade.

I admire all federal and state leaders who stand firm in their beliefs to defend America’s unborn children. I recently spoke on the House Floor regarding my strong opinion on this subject. I would like to say “thank you” to each and every American who continues to speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves.

America was founded on the principle that every human being has rights, dignity, and value. Although we continue to fight the good fight here in Washington and back home in Alabama, our work is far from complete. I promise to not stop fighting until our laws protect life at every stage, and I hope you won’t stop either.

Every life deserves a voice, and I will not back down until we accomplish our goal.

Representative Martha Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District. She lives in Montgomery, Alabama, with her husband Riley and their two children.

16 hours ago

Three Alabama lakes get spruced up with ‘The Preserves’ recreation sites

Three new public recreation sites have been added at Lake HarrisLay Lake and Lake Martin as part of Alabama Power’s “The Preserves.”

These areas consist of trails, gazebos, benches, interpretive signs and pollinator plots. From hiking, and biking to bird-watching, The Preserves are core to the Alabama Power ideal of merging nature with crafting special places.

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“These lands allow people to explore, learn and grow a deeper appreciation of our state’s ecology and natural beauty. They allow our citizens to access and enjoy our lakes. They are inclusive and open to all,” said Ed Windsor, recreation development assistant with Alabama Power.

“The Preserves project is unique in that it gives us a chance to take existing areas around lakes and create a space for residents to not only learn about and enjoy nature but also make memories and see the importance of protecting our environment.”

Lake Harris now has The Preserves at Little Fox Creek, located off Alabama Highway 48 between Lineville and Wedowee. This site, already home to a public use boat ramp and Piedmont Plateau Birding Trail, will now feature an enhanced trail system totaling 5 miles. The site is managed in partnership with the Lake Wedowee Property Owners Association.

Additionally, the area will have two pollinator plots, interpretive signs, benches, a boardwalk and two gazebos for the public to enjoy.

The existing recreation area on Lay Lake, named Beeswax Creek Park, is located off Alabama Highway 145 in Columbiana on Beeswax Creek Park Road. Recent upgrades include a 2.75-mile trail system complete with a pollinator plot, an additional launching pier, interpretive signs, gazebos and benches. This site is managed in partnership with Shelby County Parks and Recreation Board.

Lake Martin’s new recreation area, Nature’s Way, is located on the southeastern corner of the reservoir, at the end of Old Tree Road in Dadeville. This area will feature a trail system totaling 4 miles with gazebos, interpretive signs, a boardwalk and benches.

These trails are open for hiking, running, bird-watching and biking. All these public recreation areas allow pets on leashes.

These sites come after the successful launch of three other new and upgraded sites last year.

Upgrades at Lake Logan MartinWeiss Lake and Neely Henry Lake have had a tremendously positive response from users.

“Continuing to provide these improvements in our communities is Alabama Power’s way of enhancing our state’s natural resources to give back in hopes that families will enjoy them more,” said Stephen Posey, recreation development assistant for Alabama Power.

The upgrades have been made possible through the help of businesses and contractors, like Foothills Contracting of Uniontown.

Alabama Power’s recreation team is working with Foothills Contracting to build the gazebos and kiosks for these public use areas.

“While traditionally used for fencing, this wood will provide a long-lasting structure with an incredible color and grain that will set it apart from anything else we have found in the state,” said Sage Coley, vice president of Foothills Contracting.

Foothills Contracting constructed the gazebos and kiosks with a unique and long-lasting type of wood known as Osage Orange.

“This was our first time building for a customer like Alabama Power, but it has been great seeing a company invest time and money to give back to the community and the kids. These playgrounds, trails and gazebos will be a great addition to the state’s lakes,” said Glynward Coley, owner of Foothills Contracting.

Alabama Power will continue to build The Preserves brand and make improvements to recreation sites on Alabama Power reservoirs. The Preserves project will focus on upgrades at more lakes in 2020, starting at Lake Jordan.

This story originally appeared in Shorelines magazine.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

19 hours ago

Watch: Jalen Hurts gives back to community, feels the love in return to Alabama

MOBILE — Former University of Alabama star quarterback Jalen Hurts played last season for the Oklahoma Sooners. But he is still the same player — and more importantly, the same person — that Crimson Tide fans have grown to love.

Back in the state of Alabama for Saturday’s Senior Bowl at Mobile’s Ladd-Peebles Stadium, Hurts has spent the week discussing the return and even got to reunite with his former head coach Nick Saban.

However, the best moments for the 2019 Heisman Trophy runner-up may have come in lesser publicized moments, when Hurts got the opportunity to interact with every day fans young and old at select times during the week.

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Take, for example, the adorable moment from Thursday, when Hurts was swarmed by a group of local schoolchildren while departing the University of South Alabama’s football complex after a closed indoors practice session (practices for the Senior Bowl are normally open to the public and at Ladd-Peebles, but Thursday’s weather forced a change).

“This is my dream, Jalen,” one wide-eyed student excitedly told Hurts, as captured in a video by Tyler Dragon.

Hurts, with a smile stretching ear-to-ear, seemed to be soaking in the moment as he stopped to talk with the kids.

He later shared the video with a short but sweet caption.

This scene was followed Friday morning by Hurts visiting young patients at the University of South Alabama Children’s & Women’s Hospital. Hurts was joined by other Senior Bowl players, as well as mascots like Bama’s Big Al.

You can view pictures from that visit here and here.

Friday continued to be a day of fan interaction for Hurts, starting with the Senior Bowl Experience presented by Alabama Power Company and its Meet the Players event presented by Coca-Cola.

As captured by Yellowhammer News, fans were stretched from wall-to-wall in the exhibit hall of Mobile’s Arthur R. Outlaw Convention Center as they stood in line to get a picture and/or autograph from Hurts. Hurts’ line far surpassed the Auburn and Crimson Tide team lines.

Unfortunately for many fans waiting in the huge line, Hurts had to leave Meet the Players before the event ended to get ready for the evening’s Senior Bowl Street Party and inaugural Mardi Gras Player Parade, presented by Wind Creek Casino and Austal USA. He left the exhibit hall to a horde of screaming fans.

One couple, a wife sporting a Bama t-shirt and her husband in Auburn Tigers attire, told Yellowhammer News that they had been waiting in line for two hours just to see Hurts. They, to say the least, were disappointed that their wait was in vain. However, it goes to show that Hurts’ popularity in the Yellowhammer State has somehow managed to cross the Iron Bowl battle lines, with even Auburn fanatics respecting — and at times adoring — the former Tide star.

Saturday’s Senior Bowl game will kickoff shortly after 1:30 p.m. CT on Saturday. The game will be televised on NFL Network.

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