8 months ago

Mayor Randall Woodfin pledges Birmingham will be ‘more broad’ than a sanctuary city

In an interview with NPR’s “Code Switch” last week, Birmingham Mayor Randall L. Woodfin said that becoming a sanctuary city would not be going far enough and instead declared Birmingham a “welcoming city.”

Yellowhammer News asked Woodfin’s communications office about the city’s status as a sanctuary city and “policy regarding cooperating with federal law enforcement officials, especially when it comes to enforcing federal immigration law,” but is still waiting for a response.

The city council unanimously approved a resolution designating Birmingham a sanctuary city in January 2017, however, nothing binding has ever been put in place.

Now, Woodfin made it clear that the city will go beyond the bounds of what it means to be a sanctuary city, per Alabama Today.

“We’re not going to use our police to do anything around what I call rounding up people,” Woodfin told NPR.

He continued, “We just don’t believe in that. I don’t believe in that as mayor. I’ve had a clear, direct conversation with my police chief. I’ve had a clear and direct conversation with my chief of our city jail. We’re not in that business.”

Woodfin then said Birmingham police would never ask for someone’s immigration status.

The mayor also explained that he is past the decision-making part of the process and that Birmingham is a “welcoming city.”

“I believe in welcoming cities,” Woodfin outlined. “That is something that we are past exploring. That is something we’re going to actually do.”

Woodfin said that he considered declaring Birmingham a sanctuary city, but decided to go even further after researching the issue.

“They put a paper in my hand and said, sign it,” he said, talking about the sanctuary city paperwork. “That’s not how I necessarily govern. I read it. I turned it over to my legal department.”

“But I also turned over to my legal department welcoming cities. And when we look at both of those, I think not only protecting our immigrant community but making sure we do things beyond ICE is important,” Woodfin advised.

He spoke about the difference between “sanctuary” and “welcoming” cities.

“I think sanctuary city is narrowly tailored and isolated towards don’t have your police enforce certain things of rounding up and hurting people, which I agree with. We’re not going to do that.”

Woodfin continued, “But welcoming cities is more broad about, how do we help our immigrant community? And as I go to Birmingham city schools, I can tell you our immigrant community continues to grow. So it’s – for me it has a broader positive impact, whereas sanctuary [cities] don’t do this. Welcoming is … what we’re going to do.”

When pressed, Woodfin confirmed Birmingham will not cooperate with ICE.

An illegal alien attempted to kidnap multiple Alabamians last week, and Jasper law enforcement needed ICE’s assistance to properly identify the suspect.

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

2 hours ago

Watch live: Alabama Senate debates clean lottery bill

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama Senate is set to debate and consider State Sen. Greg Albritton’s lottery bill, SB 220, on Thursday.

The bill was favorably recommended on a 6-5 vote by the Senate Tourism Committee on Tuesday.

Watch the debate live:

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Ahead of the Senate gaveling in for the day, Albritton spoke with reporters outside of the chamber.

He explained his bill would be alone on a one-bill special order calendar on the day, even though there is a back-up special order calendar if something unexpected occurs.

Albritton said he was unsure if he has enough votes to pass SB 220 on Thursday, saying, “I’m optimistic but it is certainly not in the bag.”

The sponsor expects “heated, open debate” on the floor.

Albritton also decried the “regionalism” that occurs when trying to make statewide gaming changes in Alabama, due to previous “piecemeal” approaches with certain counties and types of gaming.

“When you start getting into video gambling, there’s still a lot we don’t understand,” Albritton said. He added that sports gambling will become a part of that complication, too.

Albritton advised that video gaming “opens the wound.” His legislation would not legalize any video gaming or alter any existing parimutuel gaming in the state.

“This paper lottery is a simple matter that most of us understand, comprehend, and I believe it has the greatest opportunity for passing,” he remarked. “The people of Alabama want to make the decision on this principle … most of them I believe want to have a lottery.”

Albritton concluded that attempting passage of the lottery bill in the legislature should be tougher than getting it passed in by a referendum of the people, which would occur if the legislature advances it.

“We’ve been working it but so has everyone else,” Albritton said, speaking of the opponents of the bill.

He explained that the greatest challenge to the bill is “misunderstanding” fueled by misinformation efforts by the “opposite side.” Albritton further mentioned floor amendments as a challenge to passage and keeping the legislation clean.

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

2 hours ago

Poll: Ivey approval ratings unchanged by gas tax push in first quarter of 2019

According to newly released polling from Morning Consult, Gov. Kay Ivey’s approval ratings were completely unchanged from the final quarter of 2018 through the first quarter of this year.

The new survey polled registered voters from January 1 through March 31, 2019. The margin of error was one percent.

Ivey’s signature Rebuild Alabama Act was signed into law on March 12.

Morning Consult’s polling showed that 63 percent of Alabamians approve of her job performance, while 19 percent disapprove. This currently makes her the fourth most popular governor in the nation.

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The final quarter of 2018 showed Ivey holding the same topline polling numbers.

The most recent survey breaks down to Ivey having a positive net approval with all political subgroups: 73 percent with Republicans, 8 percent with Democrats and 36 percent with independents.

Another recent poll, by Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy, showed that 60 percent of Alabamians approved versus 28 percent who disapproved of Ivey.

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

HB352 seeks to save the American Dream for Alabama small business owners

The American Dream.

It is woven into the fabric of our nation’s success and yet, at some point, for small business owners across Alabama, the dream of small business success that drives hardworking Alabama men and women to work 70 hour weeks, to pour their hearts and souls into building small businesses the vision of leaving something behind for their children, began to be threatened by large out of state corporate interests and under current Alabama law, there were no legal protections for those that saw their hard work, sweat, tears and dollars taken away.

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The Bush family spent nearly three decades building a successful small business in rural Elmore County. Twenty-six years ago, Darrel Bush’s parents purchased a Huddle House franchise and began the grueling task of opening a new restaurant. The restaurant grew into a success and, as they became ready, the next generation of the Bush family joined the business. Two generations of a single family were living the American Dream until the Huddle House corporation decided they wanted the profits that the Bush’s were making for themselves – cut out the small business owners that built the Huddle House name in Wetumpka.

Once the corporation had their eyes set on the Bush’s business, they used corporate bullying to drive the Bush’s out of business so that the corporation could build a company-owned Huddle House just a mile down the road. Alabama law had no protections for the Bush family and they lost the dream they had devoted their lives to achieving.

Unfortunately, the Bush family is not alone. Time after time, Alabama’s small business owners find themselves at the mercy of large out of state corporations due to our state’s weak franchisee protection laws.

Under current statute, the out of state franchisors hold all of the cards while Alabama small business owners are largely powerless to defend themselves. It is not uncommon for these franchisors to come back year after year and demand changes to franchise contracts. If the franchisees balk at agreeing to the changes, their businesses are threatened. They are often forced to purchase products at far above the fair market value, forced to make investments of their profits into systems and programs that benefit the corporation, not their small business. If a location gets too successful, they are at risk of being shut down so that a corporate owned store can open up down the street and usurp the profits for the corporation. Often, franchise owners are told that they can’t leave their businesses to their children.

Many Alabama franchisees lives in a constant state of fear.

Representative Connie Rowe (R-Walker County) is hoping to give Alabama’s small business men and women a fair playing field in the State of Alabama with HB352, the Alabama Small Business Act. The legislation, which will be heard in committee in the Alabama House of Representatives this week, will protect the rights of the state’s business owners and the 125,000 jobs they provide.

The bill gives franchisees the rights to have disputes heard in Alabama’s court system, rather than being forced to go to court in the franchisor’s home state. It would also require that franchisor corporations negotiate in good faith in their dealings with Alabama’s franchise owners.

This legislation is about more than protecting the rights of business owners. This legislation is about protecting the American Dream and that is something we should all be able to support.

3 hours ago

Education bill would require third-graders to meet reading benchmarks

Alabama could become the next state to require third-graders to pass a reading benchmark before moving to fourth grade, under a bill advanced by a legislative committee Wednesday.

The House Education Policy Committee approved the bill by Republican Rep. Terri Collins (R-Decatur) that seeks to strengthen reading education in the early grades.

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The bill now moves to the House floor.

The bill mandates a number of initiatives to try to boost reading scores and beginning in 2021-22 would implement a high-stakes requirement for students to meet a reading benchmarks before moving to the fourth grade.

Collins described the proposal as taking the existing Alabama Reading Initiative and putting it “on steroids.”

“I believe if we promote a child who is not reading on grade level out of the third grade then we are failing that child,” Collins said.

The legislation is patterned after programs in Mississippi and Florida. Students would have to make a minimum score on a reading assessment or demonstrate “mastery of all third grade state reading standards as evidenced by a student reading portfolio.”

The Department of Education would help develop rules for the pass-fail requirement.

The bill called the Alabama Literacy Act spells out a number of initiatives, including requiring regional reading specialists to work with struggling students, requiring summer reading camps and new attempts to better identify and assist students with dyslexia. It would create a new office called the Office of Student Success within the Department of Education to oversee some of the measures.

The State Department of Education estimates that the proposals would cost approximately $90 million annually, according to a fiscal note on the bill by the Legislative Services Agency.

During a public hearing on the bill, one family described the struggle to obtain help for their daughter with dyslexia. They eventually turned to private therapy.

Mark Dixon, president of the A+ Education Partnership, expressed support for the bill.

“We have been a longtime advocate of the goal of this bill that every child deserves a chance to be an excellent reader,” Dixon said.

Some speakers expressed concern about both the price tag and the requirement to hold students back.

Jessica Sanders of the Alabama Department of Education said the department shares in the goal of the bill but had a few concerns such as the creation of a new state office.

She said the department is already doing much of the work through the existing Alabama Reading Initiative.

“The retention piece and the Office of Student Success are just not needed to accomplish these goals. It is absolutely correct that the funding is,” Sanders said.

Collins said she was firm on keeping the third-grade passage requirement, which “makes it work.”
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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Innovating good: How an Alabama nonprofit, KultureCity is creating a world of acceptance for individuals with sensory needs

Innovation often describes new technology, but for Alabama based nonprofit KultureCity, it’s a mission. The organization works with businesses and organizations to make sure those with sensory needs feel welcome wherever they go.

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Uma Srivastava, KultureCity’s COO, says KultureCity is more than a nonprofit, but “a company geared for social good.”

Currently, KultureCity is working in the United States, Australia and Canada – with hopes to expand in the future.

KultureCity aims to create a community where sensory inclusivity is the norm, not just a day or time. To do this, KultureCity installs sensory rooms, offers sensory inclusion certification courses and provides LifeBoks, life-saving safety kits to families with loved ones who have Autism.

“Similar to when you go into a facility and you see the ADA accessibility, that’s how we want KultureCity to be, so that way individuals with sensory needs are welcome at every event, every game, every concert, rather than just sensory friendly events,” Srivastava said.

Srivastava says that many individuals with sensory needs are not able to socialize with their friends and family, causing them to feel isolated. In their aim to create a welcoming community for all, KultureCity offers a sensory inclusive certification course to businesses.

“We’ve trained over 15,000 staff at 250 venues to be inclusive,” she said, adding, “these staff members now know how to handle an overload, language to use, not to use, and how to approach a family or an individual.”

KultureCity’s has made a strong impact both in the United States and Birmingham. Thanks to their efforts, the Birmingham Airport is now the third airport in the nation to have a sensory inclusive room.

Find out how you can partner with KultureCity to make your business sensory inclusive by visiting the organization’s website, Facebook or Instagram pages.