The Wire

  • New tunnel, premium RV section at Talladega Superspeedway on schedule despite weather

    Excerpt:

    Construction of a new oversized vehicle tunnel and premium RV infield parking section at Talladega Superspeedway is still on schedule to be completed in time for the April NASCAR race, despite large amounts of rainfall and unusual groundwater conditions underneath the track.

    Track Chairman Grant Lynch, during a news conference Wednesday at the track, said he’s amazed the general contractor, Taylor Corporation of Oxford, has been able to keep the project on schedule.

    “The amount of water they have pumped out of that and the extra engineering they did from the original design, basically to keep that tunnel from floating up out of the earth, was remarkable,” Lynch said.

  • Alabama workers built 1.6M engines in 2018 to add auto horsepower

    Excerpt:

    Alabama’s auto workers built nearly 1.6 million engines last year, as the state industry continues to carve out a place in global markets with innovative, high-performance parts, systems and finished vehicles.

    Last year also saw major new developments in engine manufacturing among the state’s key players, and more advanced infrastructure is on the way in the coming year.

    Hyundai expects to complete a key addition to its engine operations in Montgomery during the first half of 2019, while Honda continues to reap the benefits of a cutting-edge Alabama engine line installed several years ago.

  • Groundbreaking on Alabama’s newest aerospace plant made possible through key partnerships

    Excerpt:

    Political and business leaders gathered for a groundbreaking at Alabama’s newest aerospace plant gave credit to the formation of the many key partnerships that made it possible.

    Governor Kay Ivey and several other federal, state and local officials attended the event which celebrated the construction of rocket engine builder Blue Origin’s facility in Huntsville.

2 days ago

Mountain Brook High School band members prepare to perform on the beaches of Normandy

(CBS 42/YouTube)

Mountain Brook High School’s marching band is gearing up to participate in the D-Day 75 Normandy Parade, which will commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day on June 6, 2019, according to a CBS 42 report.

Expected to leave June 4 and return June 11, the 24 students from Mountain Brook High School taking part in the event will reportedly march on the beaches of Normandy as they are looked upon by cheering crowds.

Band director Jason Smith shared his excitement of the opportunity and said he was “proud” of the kids.

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“I’m so proud, these kids are the hardest working kids at Mountain Brook High School,” Smith said via CBS 42. “The parents have stepped up to support there travels, and their ability to do something like this is unspeakable.”

D-Day occurred on June 6, 1944, and 160,000 forces, including 70,000 Americans landed on 50 miles of Normandy coast. More than 2,000 Americans lost their lives when they stormed the beach to reach high ground. Over 8,000 others also lost their lives in the days after.

Donations can be made to support the Mountain High School Band by calling 205-414-3810 to speak with Jason Smith or by emailing smithj@mtnbrook.k12.al.us.

Kyle Morris also contributes daily to Breitbart News. You can follow him on Twitter @RealKyleMorris.

2 days ago

Montgomery selected by military for major software development project

(Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce/Contributed)

Alabama’s capital city has been selected by the Air Force for a new software development project that will attract top IT talent to the area, spurring increased new-age economic development in Montgomery.

TechMGM, the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce’s initiative to connect and leverage the city’s unique technology assets, on Wednesday announced a partnership with the Air Force Business and Enterprise Systems Directorate Program Executive Office to host a new military software development project that will offer private sector collaboration called BESPIN.

Marking a shift in the way the Air Force approaches software development and acquisition, BESPIN (Business and Enterprise Systems Product Innovation), pairs in-house developers with private sector developers and uses an agile development methodology in a collaborative and innovative environment to turn projects into new solutions to support the Department of Defense.

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The Business and Enterprise Systems Directorate based at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base has been charged by the secretary of the Air Force for acquisition to stand-up a software factory focusing on Business and Enterprise Systems (BES) applications. BES runs the systems that run the Air Force.

The local chamber partnered with BES to provide an initial off-base space at their facility, where work is already underway to create mobile applications for BES with the first focus being logistics systems used on the flight line, including those at Maxwell Air Force Base and the Alabama Air National Guard.

Through BESPIN, previously slow and costly products can now be met with flexible solutions that allow developers to adapt on the fly – and deliver real results more quickly.

By training and encouraging in-house talent to develop software using agile practices, the Air Force is starting to attract top IT talent. Meanwhile, they are also collaborating with digital services market leaders to transform their process and train their workforce.

In April, BES awarded a contract to Fearless, the company responsible for 1). redesigning the SBA.gov site, 2). modernizing Medicare beneficiary API products for Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and 3). building software for other federal, nonprofit, city and healthcare clients.

“Fearless is excited to partner with USAF, TechMGM, and the City of Montgomery at large to support in the growth of the local tech ecosystem. The BESPIN and TechMGM visions align well with our mission to build software with a soul, and to see a world where good software powers things that matter,” Delali Dzirasa, president of Fearless, stated.

Fearless is also a founding member of the national Digital Services Coalition and is passionate about assisting the government in making its technology work better for all residents.

“We’re essentially replicating a structure that has proven successful in the commercial sector and applying it to the Air Force and building upon the foundation set by our peers at Kessel Run. What previously worked just isn’t cutting it anymore – we’ve got to be faster and more efficient,” Richard Aldridge, BES program executive officer, said in a statement.

He outlined, “Launching BESPIN has reimagined our view on software acquisition and the way we solve problems. We’re confident that the brightest minds in the creation of business software and mobile solutions will be attracted to serving our country by solving some of the most pressing issues that the Air Force faces today.”

Not only will BESPIN have significant implications for the Air Force, the connection with TechMGM and Fearless will strengthen the community in several ways.

“Montgomery prioritizes military missions, so we are honored to host this important project for the Air Force to advance their efforts in creating solutions for our nation,” Willie Durham, chairman of the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce, advised.

Through partnerships with TechMGM and other key area resources within Montgomery’s unique tech ecosystem, BESPIN will aim to support the city’s infrastructure to eventually lead to lasting change in the region.

“The chamber supports any type of partnership that advances the military because it is not only good for our country, but also for our community,” Durham added. “Initiatives like BESPIN allow our region to attract and retain talent, spark new businesses and create a cycle of economic development that will have lasting effects in Montgomery for years to come.”

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

2 days ago

With the lottery dead, what about the illegal gambling in Alabama?

(YHN, Pixabay)

When the session started it almost seemed certain that there would be some form of lottery passed through the Alabama legislature, signed by the governor and voted on by the people in March 2020.

But in Alabama politics the only certain thing is uncertainty and now, by all accounts, the lottery is more dead than Doug Jones’ 2020 reelection.

The questions that doomed this lottery are the same as always, “Who gets the money?” Schools or the general fund? Prisons or college scholarships?

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It is hard to believe it has been 20 years since Alabama narrowly rejected a lottery, a gambit that sent a corrupt former Governor Don Siegelman to the clink.

In those 20 years, it appears we are no closer to forcing Alabama residents who play the lottery to drive across state lines and send their money to other states.

Regardless, this chapter in the saga appears to be over.

But, there was also a bonus question: “Will Alabama grant legal status to illegal electronic bingo in the state?”

The answer was “no.” The answer to that question seemed to be decided early on. There were multiple attempts by legislators to protect various illegal gambling entities. And oddly, in Jefferson County, the sheriff’s brother even tried to start up new gambling entities, however, that was shut down.

So, what now?

A short synopsis would be “The attorney general is coming!” But Steve Marshall himself rejected that premise in an interview on WVNN’s “The Dale Jackson Show” Thursday morning.

Marshall explained that he was already working on this form of gambling.

Leaving nothing to chance, when asked if these electronic bingo machines were illegal, he responded, “Absolutely.“

He also believes he and his office are already working on these issues.

“We are going to pursue the remedies that we have right now,” Marshall revealed.

If that course does not produce the desired result, the attorney general is prepared to move.

“We will investigate just like we would the situation in Birmingham, prepare search warrants as they come and then be able to take action from there,” he stated.

So whether Marshall likes the framing or not, he’s is preparing to shut down illegal gambling in this state.

This could take the form of a court action or a new version of the bingo raids we saw during former Governor Bob Riley’s time in office. Either way, the attorney general is coming.

Listen:

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 am weekdays on WVNN

2 days ago

Report reveals Planned Parenthood helped orchestrate government boycott of Alabama

(YHN)

A stunning report has revealed that Planned Parenthood helped draft the Colorado secretary of state’s call for a boycott of the state of Alabama over the recently passed HB 314 abortion-ban law.

9News, a local NBC affiliate in Colorado, explained that before Secretary of State Jena Griswold (D-CO) on Thursday announced she was restricting employee travel to Alabama in response to the new law, Griswold worked with representatives of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains on what she would say.

Internal emails obtained by 9News provide an eye-opening look into how Griswold involved Planned Parenthood in an official declaration regarding the travel of state employees under her purview.

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Griswold called on the Colorado Election Center to relocate their training outside of Alabama and is restricting Colorado Department of State employees’ travel to the Yellowhammer State.

Emails show that Griswold, at Planned Parenthood’s request, dropped a line in her statement indicating that her staffers did not actually need to go to Alabama because the relevant training would be available in Denver anyway.

Planned Parenthood told the Colorado secretary of state that information was not such that the “media need to know.”

Not only did Griswold outsource editing of her official statement to this special interest group, she also accepted Planned Parenthood suggestions that were explicitly based on the group’s internal poll results.

One of these poll-tested Planned Parenthood changes included Griswold removing the term “Right to Choose.”

This change was made because Planned Parenthood said, “We don’t recommend using right to choose/pro-life/pro-choice language anymore.”

Planned Parenthood lamented this type of language “turns folks off.”

Instead, Planned Parenthood worked to make Griswold’s statement “more digestible for the mainstream/media.”

It was not immediately clear if Planned Parenthood is involved in other government entity boycotts of Alabama over the new abortion-ban law, such as Los Angeles County.

Planned Parenthood has claimed HB 314 “would be a death sentence for women across this state.”

Planned Parenthood’s latest attack on Alabama comes after the organization and allied out-of-state liberal groups spent approximately $1.5 million in dark money opposition to Amendment Two on the state’s November 2018 general election ballot. That pro-life constitutional amendment still passed comfortably.

Planned Parenthood is currently constructing a new facility in Birmingham. Pro-life groups continue to protest this construction site. The facility is scheduled to be opened this year, according to a Planned Parenthood spokesperson.

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

2 days ago

Rogers: ‘Democrats can’t let go of their Russian hoax conspiracy theory’

(Mike Rogers Campaign/Twitter)

Congressman Mike Rogers (R-Saks) released a video message Wednesday, stating he stands alongside President Trump in holding the Deep State accountable in their plot to tarnish the Trump presidency.

“Trump derangement syndrome is at epidemic proportions in the Democrat Party,” Rogers said in the video shared to his campaign’s Twitter account. “Despite the fact that special counsel Robert Mueller, and his team of partisan prosecutors, found no collusion, no obstruction, Democrats can’t let go of their Russian hoax conspiracy theory.”

He added, “I say to Democrats like Nancy Pelosi, Jerry Nadler, and Adam Schiff, ‘Get over it, case closed.’”

Watch:

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Rogers also commented on the Democrats’ relentless and “unhinged” animosity towards United States Attorney General Bill Barr as he investigates the origins leading to the Russia investigation.

“[Democrats are] coming unhinged over the prospect that Attorney General Barr is actively investigating the origins of this deep state attempt to frame President Trump,” Rogers said.

Rogers concluded the video by reaffirming his belief that those behind the plot to sabotage President Trump must be held accountable.

“Will you stand with me and President Trump to demand justice?” Rogers asked viewers. “We must hold those behind this Deep State plot accountable.”

Kyle Morris also contributes daily to Breitbart News. You can follow him on Twitter @RealKyleMorris.

2 days ago

Alabama Senate passes bill making murder of on-duty first responder a capital offense — Named after slain Auburn PD officer

(Auburn PD/Contributed, PIxabay)

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama Senate on Thursday passed as amended HB 59, a bill sponsored by State Rep. Chris Sells (R-Greenville) that would make killing an on-duty first responder a capital offense.

The vote was unanimous, as it was when the legislation passed the House.

An amendment was tacked on by State Sen. Tom Whatley (R-Auburn) to name the proposed law after the late Auburn Police Department Officer William Buechner, who was shot and killed in the line of duty on Sunday night.

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The bill adds on-duty first responders to the list of murder victims that constitutes a capital offense. State law already makes the murder of an on-duty law enforcement officer or prison guard a capital offense. Capital offenses in Alabama are punishable by life in prison or death.

Sells’ bill would also add on-duty law enforcement officers, prison guards and first responders as victims in the list of aggravating circumstances to a capital offense. This would make the death penalty more likely in the sentencing phase of this kind of capital offense.

In HB 59, first responders are defined as emergency medical services personnel licensed by the Alabama Department of Public Health and firefighters and volunteer firefighters as defined by existing state law.

The bill now goes back to the House because it was amended. The House is expected to concur with the Senate amendment, sending the legislation to Governor Kay Ivey’s desk.

Sells has sponsored this bill the past two legislative sessions, ever since the infamous deadly 2016 ambush of police officers in Dallas, TX. Last year, it passed the House and was the next bill up on the Senate calendar for a vote when the chamber adjourned sine die.

Lee County District Attorney Brandon Hughes has said he will seek the death penalty if the man charged with Buechner’s death is convicted on a capital murder charge.

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

2 days ago

Alabama voters show bipartisan support for Family Caregivers Act

(AARP/Contributed)

Right now, the Alabama legislature has an opportunity to pass a no-cost, commonsense bill to support our state’s 761,000 caregivers when their loved ones go into the hospital and as they transition home.

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According to a recent survey in Alabama, voters across party lines strongly support (91%) SB376 the Family Caregivers Act.

The Alabama Family Caregivers Act would ensure hospitals identify, notify and provide after-care instructions to family caregivers when their loved ones are in the hospital – prior to discharge.

These caregivers routinely take on tasks that can be overwhelming, stressful and exhausting — from helping with medication regiments, meals, bathing, transportation, complex medical tasks and more.

Learn more about this bipartisan legislation and the survey here.

2 days ago

Birmingham’s Sidewalk Cinema and Film Center capital campaign making impressive progress — Still more work to be done

(Sidewalk Film Festival/YouTube)

Sidewalk Film Festival representatives on Thursday provided an impressive update and a call to action regarding the “Make Movie Magic” capital campaign for construction of the Sidewalk Cinema and Film Center in Birmingham’s “The Pizitz” building.

To date, $4.2 million of the projected total of $4.9 million for the center’s development has been raised through contributions from Birmingham-area individuals, corporations and local government entities. The project most recently was boosted by the Birmingham City Council’s generous donation of $200,000.

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While the capital campaign’s progress has been tremendous, there is still more work to be done to get to the finish line.

“April 2019 marked two years since the inception of fundraising efforts, and while we are proud of our progress — and appreciative of those providing financial support — we will be aggressive in our efforts as we work to secure another $750,000 in the coming months,” Chloe Cook, Sidewalk Film Festival executive director, explained in a statement.

This comes as the 21st Annual Sidewalk Film Festival is set for August 19-25 in downtown Birmingham.

If the center’s construction stays on schedule, the planned two-screen, 100-seats-per-screen Sidewalk Film Center + Cinema will serve as an official screening venue during the nationally lauded Birmingham festival.

“We are three months out from our open-and-operational deadline,” Edgar Marx Jr., capital campaign chair, outlined. “It is paramount that the Birmingham and Central Alabama community come together to take what will be a pivotal community asset across the funding finish line.”

In addition to use during the Sidewalk Film Festival, the Film Center + Cinema will screen films daily and will provide in-house education in technology and film — enhancing the revitalization to Birmingham’s downtown and adding to city residents’ quality of life.

“Supporting this campaign isn’t about a one-week festival, rather it is support for a better, brighter Birmingham for all of us,” Cook concluded. “This center will be an icon of immense pride and a key attraction for residents of and visitors to the Magic City alike.”

You can find more information here and donate here.

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

2 days ago

‘The American Taliban’ released early from federal prison over objections of Alabama officials, Spann family

(CBS News/YouTube)

John Walker Lindh, a.k.a. “The American Taliban,” on Thursday was released years early from federal prison, despite the objections of Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), President Donald Trump, the entirety of the Alabama legislature and the family of Johnny Micheal “Mike” Spann, who was an Alabamian and the first American known to be killed in “The War on Terror” in Afghanistan after 9/11.

After being captured in Afghanistan in 2001, Lindh pled guilty to serving as a soldier of the Taliban. He was sentenced to 20 years in a federal penitentiary in 2002 for his role in the death of Spann, a Winfield native and Auburn University alumnus then serving as a CIA officer.

Lindh was released prematurely from federal custody in Indiana on Thursday. As of a 2017 Foreign Policy article, Lindh still intended to spread terrorist ideology upon his release from prison.

CNN has reported that Lindh will live in Virginia under set restrictions.

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Alison Spann, the late Alabamian’s daughter, recently wrote a letter to the president calling Lindh’s early release “a slap in the face — not only to my father and my family but, but for every person killed on Sept. 11th, their families, the U.S. military, U.S. [intelligence] services, families who have lost loved ones to this war and the millions of Muslims worldwide who don’t support radical extremists.”

In an interview with Fox News, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned Lindh’s early release as “unexplainable and unconscionable” and followed Shelby in calling for a review of prison system policies.

Restrictions placed on Lindh, according to the Associated Press, include that “Lindh’s internet devices must have monitoring software; his online communications must be conducted in English; he must undergo mental health counseling; he is forbidden to possess or view extremist material; and he cannot hold a passport or leave the U.S.”

His release came only a day after NBC reported that Lindh, in a letter to a producer from Los Angeles-based affiliate KNBC, wrote in 2015 that the Islamic State group is “doing a spectacular job” and “is clearly very sincere and serious about fulfilling the long-neglected religious obligation to establish a caliphate through armed struggle.”

Yellowhammer News on Wednesday learned that Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01) imminently will file legislation to ensure convicted terrorists like Lindh are never released early from federal custody in the future.

On Lindh, Byrne has tweeted, “This man was held responsible for the horrific death of an Alabama CIA officer, and now he is getting out of jail early for good behavior. This is just so wrong!”

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

2 days ago

Huntsville Hospital lets children drive toy cars into surgery, goes beyond medical care

(WHNT News 19/Twitter)

Huntsville Hospital is helping kids with much more than their medical needs.

WHNT on Wednesday reported, “Hospitals can be a scary place for anyone, but especially for kids. Huntsville Hospital has child life specialists whose sole job is to help the children there beyond their medical needs. Making a trip to the hospital, not only bearable but even fun.”

One of the favorite features for young patients at Huntsville Hospital is that children are allowed to drive toy cars right into surgery.

Additionally, the hospital waiting room has become more like a game room, with interactive games projected onto the floor for kids to play with while waiting.

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“So this is kind of one of those things that keeps their mind off everything before they have to go back,” Haley Franks, a pediatric ER registered nurse, told WHNT. “Especially if they have any kind of procedures or anything they are able to kind of play out here in the lobby and have some fun while they’re waiting.”

This incredible child life department has been in Huntsville Hospital for over two decades.

“There are some kids that are excited to be here. There are some kids that are really really scared and don’t even want to come in the door, stand on the scale, put on a bracelet,” Michelle Barksdale, a child life specialist, said. “We have all developmental ages and ranges of emotions.”

Specialists like Barksdale are trained in child psychology and development to know how to meet the needs of every individual child.

She said the needs of kids are very different than adults. She said a lot of kids are concrete thinkers they need to see what the surgery room will look like, not just be told.

Barksdale explained that the famous toy car rides even come complete with a unique driver’s license for each child.

“That car is a transition piece from parents who they know, where they’re safe, to people who they don’t know in scrubs,” she added.

For the pediatric staff at Huntsville Hospital, this is a labor of love for those kids. Not only are they working to heal them, the staff truly cares about making kids feel better, too.

“It makes it easier on that transition for the parent as well as the child. Because they know the child is not scared, they’re not crying, they’re not leaving them in a fearful state,” Amanda Rochowiak, a pre-op coordinator, said.

Watch below or here:

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

2 days ago

Watch: Mobile’s WKRG anchor Mel Showers signs off for the last time after 50-year run

(Screenshot/WKRG)

On Wednesday, long-time Mobile television personality Mel Showers anchored his newscast after a 50-year tenure at WKRG, the market’s CBS affiliate.

Back in March, Showers marked his 50th anniversary with WKRG.

Showers was joined by his family as he signed off Wednesday’s 10 p.m. newscast.

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“Well, I would like to take just a few moments of your time tonight to say thank you,” Showers said. “I want to thank you for allowing me into your homes for the past five decades — first as a booth announcer, where you heard my voice more than you saw my face, then as a reporter and now as a news anchor. I was honored earlier today by the management and staff of Nexstar in a luncheon. Later today, my son and grandsons flew in from Dallas, Texas. It was a big surprise, and tonight, I want you all to see my family gathered here. I have sisters. I have nephews. I have nieces. I have granddaughters. I have their friends. And I have my WKRG family as well, as you can see them.”

“So, there’s a lot of love here involved in this studio,” he added. “And I want to thank you for tolerating me all these many years. Along with thanking you, I want to thank my family and my friends and my WKRG family, of course, many of whom are here tonight as you see. I will miss you. I love you and may God continue to bless all of you, every one of you. Look at that beautiful family.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV and host of “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN in Huntsville.

Episode 7: Surviving and thriving with photos and Frosties

(YHPN)

Marshall and I share about a plane crash we survived; the characteristics that did or did not draw us to each other; our crazy engagement story; how important it is to communicate – always; how phases are not forever, but marriage is; and how sitting down to stare at your early relationship photos can save your marriage.

>Challenge today: Why did you fall in love in the first place? Have some fun together reminiscing about the great moments in your relationship and never stop learning about the wonderful parts of your partner!

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2 days ago

State Sen. Chris Elliott: ALDOT Mobile I-10 Bridge $6 toll proposal ‘politically unfeasible,’ Project scope could be reduced

(ALDOT)

Wednesday during an appearance on Mobile radio’s FM Talk 106.5’s “Mobile Mornings,” State Sen. Chris Elliott (R-Daphne) said there could be changes ahead to the Alabama Department of Transportation’s proposal for a new I-10 Mobile Bayway Bridge, which as of now has toll that could be as high as $6 each way for vehicles.

Elliott said unless money came from other sources, be it the state or federal government, considerations to narrow the scope of the project could be underway.

He called the current ALDOT “politically unfeasible” and said the target for the toll is in the $2 range.

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“I think they are hearing the rancor from the proposal from the State Department of Transportation garnered and understand that the current proposal – that six-plus-dollar toll each way is just completely politically unfeasible. And they get that. And through my conversations with them, I think they have taken a step back. They are getting actively involved in what heretofore was a process being almost exclusively led by ALDOT, and saying, ‘OK, look guys – this isn’t going to work. We’re going to have to come up with another solution, and that’s where we are right now.”

Elliott offered a couple of options, one of which was increasing the public subsidy for the toll “significantly,” which would be in the amount of “hundreds of millions,” which he said would be gas tax revenue that would be bonded out into the future.

“The other, and I think perfectly valid way to look at it is, look at project scope – what parts can we simply afford and what parts can we just do without?” Elliott said. “Do we need to look at not doing the Bayway portion? Do we need to look at augmenting the Causeway and just doing the bridge? What parts do we need to do and what parts do we not need to do?”

“Then the other is continuing to work with our federal partners to see what, if any, help is there,” he added. “Mayor [Sandy] Stimpson and I have been in conversation about that recently. You know, we got this infrastructure grant that’s pending right now. There’s talk of an infrastructure bill in Washington.”

The Baldwin County Republican explained how the federal portion was only 7%, assuming the feds came through with the entire requested grant, which is not guaranteed he said. He said two of the distinct options were not building anything at all or accepting the entire proposed, neither which he said were options.

“I’m for trying to get something done that is palatable and reasonable,” Elliott said. “And I think the governor’s office, from what I’m hearing in our discussions with them, they’re up for that as well. It’s time to take a step back and say, ‘Look ALDOT, the proposal you have on the table is completely unreasonable. And we need to rein it in and figure out what can we do and what can we afford.”

Elliott said he expected the “tolerable number” for a toll would be in the “$2 range.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV and host of “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN in Huntsville.

2 days ago

Alabama House passes campus free speech bill on party line vote

(YHN, Flaticon)

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama House of Representatives on Wednesday passed as substituted State Rep. Matt Fridy’s (R-Montevallo) HB 498, a bill intended to safeguard freedom of speech on college campuses in the Yellowhammer State.

The bill would require Alabama’s public colleges and universities to protect and adopt policies that uphold the First Amendment free speech rights for students and faculty. HB 498 would also provide a cause of legal action for violations by public higher education institutions under the legislation.

First, HB 498 would eliminate overly broad and ambiguous speech policies that infringe on expression protected by the U.S. and state constitutions, checked by constitutional limitations like yelling “fire” in a crowded theater. Second, the bill would eliminate so-called “free speech zones.” Finally, the proposal would empower the institutions to protect free expression by members of the campus community from unlawful violations by other members of the campus community.

In a House committee meeting on the bill, Fridy previously explained that this third tenet has to do with protecting students from “shout downs.” The bill sponsor said HB 498 is modeled after legislation already adopted by approximately 15 other states, as an “assault” on free speech and expression occurs on college campuses from coast-to-coast.

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Fridy’s legislation states, “Alabama’s public institutions of higher education have historically embraced a commitment to freedom of speech and expression.”

However, he said that there are policies in place on campuses across the state that violate the First Amendment.

In fact, it was reported in recent months that Alabama A&M University and the University of North Alabama were named to the list of the “10 Worst Colleges for Free Speech” by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

In the committee meeting previously, opponents said that the constitutional guarantee to free speech already protects the rights that the bill intends to defend, making it an ultimately redundant government-overreach.

Yet, conservatives in Alabama and across the country have lauded Fridy for bringing the bill.

Eagle Forum of Alabama has endorsed the legislation, saying Fridy is “one of the strongest voices in the Alabama legislature in support of individual liberty and our Constitutional principles of limited government.”

In the committee meeting, prominent National Review commentator and Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center Stanley Kurtz spoke in ardent support of the bill, decrying the “shout down culture” growing on college campuses nationwide.

Kurtz mentioned CIA Director Gina Haspel being heckled at Auburn University in a recent appearance, where the protester was promptly removed.

At the committee meeting, a former Auburn undergrad opposed the bill, claiming institutions should have the right to disallow speech by those that “disrupt” “campus culture.”

This former student also exposed a big reason Fridy feels he needed to bring the bill. The former student preached diversity and inclusion while advocating for excluding speech when there is “a difference of opinion.”

The ACLU of Alabama Executive Director Randall Marshall also spoke in opposition to HB 498, with the caveat that the bill contains some good provisions. However, Marshall concluded, in his view, that allowing colleges to enact anti-discrimination policies outweigh individuals’ right to free speech and expression.

One vocal supporter of the bill in committee was State Rep. Tracy Estes (R-Winfield), a career journalist from northwest Alabama. He lamented, “Our society has gone soft.”

Estes said people do not have the right not to be offended, which they seem to think overrides constitutionally protected freedom of speech.

In eye-opening fashion, members of the Alabama House Democratic Caucus on Wednesday proved Estes’ comments right as they spoke on the floor against HB 498. You can follow a live-tweet thread of the debate here.

While Republicans like State Reps. Terri Collins (R-Decatur), Danny Garrett (R-Trussville), Kerry Rich (R-Boaz) and Proncey Robertson (R-Mt. Hope) came up to voice their support of Fridy and the bill in spots, the debate was plagued by dizzying arguments against the First Amendment by House Democrats.

For example, even after Fridy walked him through the legal difference between hate speech and dangerous speech, State Rep. Thomas “Action” Jackson (D-Thomasville) said public higher education institutions should have the right to disallow and/or censor hate speech.

Fridy made the follow-up point that the best way to counter hate speech “is more speech” by those with differing viewpoints.

Jackson later claimed that forcing public higher education institutions to uphold students’ free speech rights is violating the “freedom” of those institutions.

“The freedom to reject,” Jackson said, seemingly making up a new clause of the U.S. Constitution.

“The government doesn’t have a freedom to reject,” Fridy advised.

Jackson responded, “[They’re] not the government.”

Friday explained that public colleges and universities are indeed government entities.

Jackson then said the leadership of these institutions should be able to “make that decision” whether they want to usurp the First Amendment or not.

“They are government,” Fridy reiterated.

“Yeah, but they’re a governing body,” Jackson remarked.

Jackson’s speech of opposition stirred up longtime State Rep. Mary Moore (D-Birmingham), who said, “I think all people that are invited on our colleges’ campuses don’t need to be there.”

Moore argued against the notion that countering hate speech with other speech is the solution. Instead, her solution would be censorship of speech, with institutions picking and choosing what they feel is acceptable or politically correct.

She opined, “I don’t think that’s the truth,” regarding the notion of all opinions and beliefs being protected by the free speech clause of the First Amendment.

Moore then asserted that government should “be able to say no” on allowing what they deem as hate speech. She said the same power should apply to college/university administrators.

“I think that we don’t need to force them to allow everybody to come on [campus who is invited]. If students say they don’t think a certain person or group should be there, I think that we ought to at least listen to the students’ voices,” Moore stated. “I don’t think we need it all (all viewpoints).”

She added there are some perspectives “that we just don’t need to hear.”

“We need to get away from this, where you’re forcing people to be able to listen to information that they don’t want to hear,” Moore said. “Especially on our college campuses, that’s a place of learning. And if there’s a disagreement of views, than that occurs in the classroom [only].”

She added that institutions should be able to censor or disallow certain speech that might sow “confusion.”

On HB 498, Moore emphasized, “I don’t think a bill to do this is appropriate at this time or at any time.”

Perhaps Moore’s most startling line of the day was, “Freedom of speech ain’t freedom.”

She continued, “And we know as a cause, even when we think we have freedom of speech, somebody paid some kind of price for those of us who are citizens of this country and other countries practicing democracy. Somebody shed some blood, somebody even gave their complete life. So, freedom of speech ain’t really freedom. Because somebody paid a price for us to have it. So, when we come back and take the option away for a [public institution’s] president or board of trustees to say it would not be in the best interest of our university to allow certain speakers to come on [campus]… I think that what we need to do is not be disruptive… I don’t think we need to take the freedom to say ‘no’ away.”

Moore’s performance was followed by other dramatic appearances by Democrats opposing the bill, including State Reps. Juandalyyn Givan and John Rogers of Birmingham.

Rogers and other Democrats like State Rep. Napoleon Bracy (D-Mobile) said that public colleges and universities were adamantly opposing the bill, even though Fridy had worked with two-year and four-year institutions on some changes to the bill. Bracy is a trustee at Alabama State University.

Asked about HB 498 by Yellowhammer News, a spokesman for Auburn University said, “We typically don’t comment on pending legislation, but Auburn leaders have worked with the bill’s sponsors to ensure they know that Auburn stands for free speech and robust exploration of ideas. We likewise stand for respect, equality and other principles fundamental to American society. While people have a right to voice their opinions, we also have a responsibility to speak up when others espouse racism, bigotry, hatred or other offensive views.”

A few off-the-wall ideas were proposed by Democrats during debate, too. Bracy came out in support of “safety zones” instead of “free speech zones” and Moore said controversial speeches should only be allowed over an institution’s closed-circuit TV system instead of in-person.

The final roll call vote on HB 498 was almost entirely by party line and came out 62-27.

The bill now heads to the Senate, where it faces a very short window of time before the legislative session ends next week.

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

2 days ago

7 Things: Trump demands Democrats stop investigations, Pelosi can’t hold off the far-left, more jobs for Alabama and more …

(CNN/YouTube)

7. Creepy porn inmate

  • Michael Avenatti, who became famous for supporting porn star Stormy Daniels, is now looking at the potential of going to jail for 404 years for ripping her off.
  • The federal prosecutors in New York allege that Avenatti stole around $300,000 from Daniels’ book deal and used that money for personal and business expenses. He already faces charges for trying to defraud Nike and not paying his taxes.

6. Alabama Democrats attack the Constitution

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  • Democrats at the State House decided to take turns at the podium declaring their disdain for free speech, calling their colleagues white supremacists and declaring that unpopular speech should not be free.
  • Regardless of this embarrassing and anti-American display, HB 498 passed the House 62-27, and now could be taken up by the Senate. The Senate should take up the bill solely because of the comments of elected officials in the Alabama State House prove it is necessary.

5. The State Board of Education is about to get fired

  • The House Education Policy Committee gave a favorable report to the constitutional amendment introduced by Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston).
  • The amendment would replace the State Board of Education with the Alabama Commission on Elementary and Secondary Education, replace the state superintendent with a secretary of elementary and secondary education and it would mandate that Common Core be replaced.

4. Alabama is still open for business

  • Governor Kay Ivey has announced that the largest supplier for the Mazda Toyota Manufacturing USA plant is coming to Limestone County; the plant will bring 650 new jobs.
  • While Birmingham’s mayor continues to claim, without evidence, Alabama’s abortion ban is hurting the state, Ivey commented, “Alabama business is on a roll and we don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.”

3. OK, now the lottery is dead

  • The lottery bill failed on a procedural vote on Tuesday in the House, where three Democrats voted for the bill. Issues of codifying illegal behavior, education funding and earmarks all played a role, but it is totally dead now.
  • At an Alabama House Democrat Caucus press conference, House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels (D-Huntsville) said that the three Democrats who voted “yay” will be prepared to vote “nay” if the bill comes back this session because the Democrats don’t want this lottery bill for Alabama since it doesn’t deliver on their issues including college scholarships.

2. Pelosi caves to her extremist caucus

  • On Wednesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) claimed that President Donald Trump may have committed an impeachable offense by ignoring subpoenas from Congress, calling reference to Article 3 of Nixon’s impeachment.
  • Pelosi also accused the president and Republicans of not being committed to protecting the Constitution.

1. Trump rages against the impeachment machine

  • For now, it appears legislating is all but done as both sides prepare to fight about investigations, investigations into investigations and claims of cover-ups, but it seems unlikely that anything gets accomplished moving forward.
  • In a meeting that was to be about infrastructure, Trump demanded that Democrats put an end to their “phony investigations.” Only after that will he negotiate with them on issues and when they said “no,” he took to a podium in the Rose Garden and declared, “I want to do infrastructure. I want to do it more than you want to do it … but you know what, you can’t do it under these circumstances. So get these phony investigations over with.”

3 days ago

Mooney requests to ‘formally censure and condemn’ John Rogers over ‘vile remarks’

(WVTM/YouTube, A. Mooney/Facebook)

MONTGOMERY — A shouting match broke out on the floor of the Alabama House of Representatives on Wednesday night after State Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs) surprised the chamber by introducing a request to “formally censure and condemn” State Rep. John Rogers (D-Birmingham) for his comments that went viral in recent weeks regarding abortion.

Mooney’s action came immediately after Rogers killed two non-controversial bills on a consent calendar and threatened to continue that trend until midnight. Rogers did this seemingly as a measure of spite, attempting to get revenge because a bill of his has not been moved by the House.

Mooney rose to the podium, saying he wanted to object to Rogers’ bill-killing rampage.

However, Mooney then really kicked things up a notch by introducing his formal complaint against Rogers.

That complaint as follows:

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Before Mooney could read much of the complaint, shouting ensued by members of the House Democratic Caucus.

Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) called the spectacle inappropriate, and House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville) quickly moved to adjourn as the chaos continued.

The House did immediately adjourn for the night, prematurely ending their legislative day without accomplishing any of its consent calendar, which had some 40 bills on the agenda.

The future fate of Mooney’s request was not immediately clear.

The complaint from Mooney states that Rogers’ “vile remarks” served to “denigrate, embarrass and demean the institution that is the Alabama House of Representatives.” Mooney said the comments brought “national shame and ridicule upon the House.”

This came the same day that Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) ducked a question again from a Republican tracker regarding Rogers.

Mooney is a Republican candidate for Jones’ seat in the 2020 race, along with Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01) and former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville thus far.

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

3 days ago

Tommy Battle: ‘Way too early to tell’ if abortion ban is impacting Huntsville

(Jeff Poor/YHN)

The Human Life Protection Act, which was signed into law last week by Gov. Kay Ivey, has already allegedly threatened economic development in Alabama according to Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin.

The law bans abortions in Alabama, and some have suggested it could have offer obstacles for economic development throughout the state.

During an interview with Huntsville radio’s WVNN, Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle said he wasn’t ready to say what, if any, impact the law had on his city.

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“From our side, it is way too early to tell,” Battle said.

Battle instead warned of the threat the pending trade dispute between China and the United States could have on the local economy.

Both China and the United States have levied tariffs on one another’s imports, which Battle said would be a topic on his upcoming visit to Japan set to take place next week.

“You know, we’ve got a couple of issues that are up there right now,” Battle continued. “The tariffs are an issue. Looking at the national security side of foreign automobiles coming in and facing a tariff situation is going to be something we’re going to have to have a conversation about while we’re over in Japan because, of course, Toyota and Mazda are going to be producing cars soon. And the tariffs hit them, and the national security side hits them both. I think this is a good time to probably go over and see our industries, and try to make sure we can help them in the ways they need to be helped.”

On Wednesday, nearly a week after Ivey had signed the bill, both Battle and Ivey participated in a groundbreaking ceremony to welcome Y-tec Keylex Toyotetsu Alabama (YKTA) to Alabama, which is a $220 million investment that will bring 650 jobs to Huntsville.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV and host of “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN in Huntsville.

3 days ago

Alabama House passes legislation to combat human trafficking

(END IT Alabama/YouTube)

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama House of Representatives on Wednesday unanimously passed two bills aimed at combatting human trafficking: HB 262 and HB 264.

The bills are co-sponsored by State Rep. Merika Coleman (D-Birmingham) and State Rep. Terri Collins (R-Decatur). Coleman the assistant minority leader, on the House floor stressed that combatting human trafficking is a nonpartisan issue. She praised Collins and State Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs) for their efforts on the issue.

“Human trafficking is one of the most pressing issues facing our nation. There are more slaves today, an estimated 27 million, than at any point in our nation’s history,” Coleman explained in a statement. “This startling fact shows why the Alabama Legislature must act to combat human trafficking and educate the public about the harsh realities of this growing business.”

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Human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal activity in the world, estimated at $150 billion annually. This “modern-day slavery,” as END IT Alabama monikers human trafficking, is happening here in the Yellowhammer State. This is evidenced by the recent trafficking busts at multiple massage parlors in Madison and Morgan Counties by the Alabama Attorney General’s Office.

“I used to purchase gift certificates for my own mother to get foot massages at the very same spas that were shut down,” Collins advised. “HB264 would have required those same owners to display a human trafficking poster with hotline information, which could have led to a quicker rescue. I think the impact of human trafficking is larger than we realize.”

HB 262 clarifies existing law to prohibit publishing photos of those charged with the act of prostitution while allowing for publishing photos of those charged with soliciting or procuring prostitution. This bill is aimed at deterring “John’s” from purchasing sex and supporting human trafficking while protecting potential victims of human trafficking from public identification.

HB 264 clarifies existing state regulations related to the posting of the Human Trafficking Hotline and awareness posters in public places and entertainment establishments by assigning a regulator and increasing fees for non-compliance.

The two bills now head to the Senate, where they face a time crunch to pass before the regular session ends next week.

HB 261, which would require all new commercial driver licensees to undergo industry-specific human trafficking training, was also slated to be passed by the House Wednesday night before the chamber abruptly adjourned over State Rep. John Rogers (D-Birmingham) intentionally killing non-controversial legislation on a consent calendar. HB 261 has the backing of the Alabama Trucking Association and Truckers Against Trafficking.

Coleman and Collins will also introduce a pair of resolutions aimed at combatting human trafficking. The first resolution encourages ALEA to continue developing curriculum to ensure that every officer in the state is trained regarding human trafficking.

The second resolution creates the Alabama Healthcare Human Trafficking Training Program Commission, which is tasked with developing a training module for all healthcare related employees to readily identify and provide trauma-centered care for human trafficking victims.

You can call the National Human Trafficking Hotline 24/7 at 1 (888) 373-7888.

You can also text “HELP” or “INFO” to 233733.

Update Thursday 4:25 p.m.:

The House on Thursday unanimously passed HB 261. That bill also now heads to the Senate.

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

3 days ago

Key rural broadband initiative receives final passage from Alabama legislature

(YHN)

With the support of a broad coalition of legislators and stakeholders behind it, a key rural broadband initiative received final passage in the Alabama legislature on Wednesday.

The bill, carried by State Rep. Randall Shedd (R-Cullman) and State Sen. Steve Livingston (R-Scottsboro) in their respective chambers, will allow electricity providers to run broadband using their existing easements.

This is expected to encourage electric providers to invest in broadband deployment and accelerate the cost-effective expansion of broadband access in rural Alabama, in many cases using existing infrastructure.

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This was one of two bills legislative leadership prioritized to grow the state’s broadband infrastructure. The other, a bill sponsored by State Sen. Clay Scofield (R-Guntersville), would increase the amount of resources devoted to building out broadband in unserved, rural areas. Scofield’s bill awaits final approval from the House of Representatives.

Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) previously noted the importance of both pieces of legislation.

“These are the two bills that will help us… provide for our citizens, who I believe consider the broadband infrastructure a ‘number one issue’ for the state of Alabama,” he said. “It will have great impact on all of our education… as well as economic development.”

The intent of the ongoing effort is to spur economic development and enhance quality of life for rural areas through greater access to high-speed broadband.

Those were among the benefits outlined by Blake Hardwich, executive director of the Energy Institute of Alabama.

“The passing of this historic bill is important for our state and brings us one step closer to greater economic gains, workforce development opportunities and educational advancements,” Hardwich said in a statement. “We are excited our member companies across the state can be a part of closing the digital divide while also providing reliable and safe electricity to our communities.”

HB 400 now goes to the governor for her signature.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated from a previous version.

Tim Howe is an owner and editor of Yellowhammer News

3 days ago

Limestone County portion of Huntsville lands 650 new jobs with $220 million YKTA facility

(Jeff Poor/YHN)

HUNTSVILLE — Wednesday during a ceremony just a stone’s throw from the location of the Mazda Toyota Manufacturing auto assembly plant under construction, Gov. Kay Ivey formally announced the arrival of auto supplier Y-tec Keylex Toyotetsu Alabama (YKTA) to the state.

The $220 million facility located in the Huntsville-annexed portions of eastern Limestone County will provide 650 new jobs.

YKTA is a new joint venture formed between a trio of Mazda and Toyota suppliers and will produce structural body stampings and assemblies, as well as functional and chassis parts for Mazda Toyota.

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“This is a great wonderful announcement today,” Ivey said to reporters following the event. “Over $220 million investment in a manufacturing facility in Huntsville and Limestone County. This investment is going to bring 650 new jobs for more people to go to work. This is a great day in Alabama.”

Ivey was asked to speculate on potential future parts supplier announcements and if more could be forthcoming.

“I sure hope so because Mazda Toyota is a big facility,” she replied. “They may need some more suppliers. We hope they’ll come. We’re looking forward to having them.”

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle and Gov. Kay Ivey at YKTA announcement, 5/22/2019 (Jeff Poor/YHN)

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle said he expected to see a boost in the economy as the manufacturing was underway at the Mazda Toyota facility.

“As they come and start producing automobiles, we’ll see more and more come off of this — more and more jobs, more and more for the economy coming off of this. It’s a great day for us.”

He predicted there would be more announcements, but they wouldn’t solely be in Huntsville. They would be scattered throughout the northern part of Alabama.

“The future holds more of these announcements,” Battle explained. “They all won’t be right here. There will be announcements all across North Alabama — down to Jasper, to the tri-cities, over to the Sand Mountain area because every labor pool will be challenged out of this. And that’s the great thing — that we’ll provide jobs for people all across North Alabama, even into South Tennessee.”

During an appearance on Huntsville radio’s WVNN following today’s announcement, Limestone County District 3 County Commissioner Jason Black discussed the announcement of the new venture and noted that the area was “flooded” with similar announcements.

“Just like all the other announcements we’ve had — it’s just fantastic that we’re able to have them,” Black said. “There are places throughout the United States that are looking for businesses to come in and we’re just flooded with them at this time. The Mazda Toyota Manufacturing deal was larger than some people can even imagine.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV and host of “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN in Huntsville.

3 days ago

Last known American slave ship discovered in Alabama waters

(NPS/Contributed)

The Associated Press on Wednesday reported that the last known ship to bring enslaved persons to the United States has been identified in Alabama waters.

The ship is known as the “Clotilda.” The wreckage was found last year in the Mobile River channel near Africatown and a thorough identification process ended Wednesday.

Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01), who represents that part of coastal Alabama, released a statement, declaring, “This is a significant day for the people of Africatown but also for Alabama and our nation.”

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He explained, “Many current Africatown residents are descendants of enslaved Africans forcibly brought to the United States aboard the Clotilda, including those later freed following the Civil War.”

“We should seize upon this opportunity to help us better understand our complex American history,” Byrne said. “Harry Truman wisely said ‘the only thing new in the world is the history you do not know.’ Let’s use the discovery of the Clotilda to learn more about our history so we can discuss how best we can move forward together.”

The site of the Clotilda wreckage had been sought by historians and scientists for many years.

The last survivor of the ship lived until 1937. Read her story here.

RELATED: Cleon Jones is an Alabama Bright Light going to bat for Africatown

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

3 days ago

Alabama House committee approves Marsh’s historic education proposal

(Pixabay, YHN)

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama House of Representatives’ Education Policy Committee on Wednesday gave a favorable report as amended to SB 397, a constitutional amendment sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) that would be a historic overhaul of the state school board.

The proposal was first reported on by Yellowhammer News two weeks ago. SB 397 passed the Senate unanimously on Thursday.

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

“Our current system is broken,” Marsh has said. “We need systemic changes to our education system and it starts at the top.”

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Marsh was welcoming a new grandchild into the world on Wednesday so he could not attend the committee meeting in person. State Rep. Bill Poole (R-Tuscaloosa), the chairman of the House Ways and Means Education Committee, is carrying the bill in the House and handled the legislation during the committee meeting.

Poole spoke in adamant support of the legislation, as did State Rep. Terri Collins (R-Decatur), the Education Policy Committee chair.

SB 397 would replace the current elected State Board of Education with the Alabama Commission on Elementary and Secondary Education, members of which will be appointed by the governor and confirmed by the State Senate.

The legislation would also abolish the state superintendent position and replace it with a secretary of elementary and secondary education, appointed by the commission and subject to confirmation by the Senate.

Marsh advised, “Currently, one of the reasons that education is consistently the most pressing issue for most Alabamians is because our state school board is completely dysfunctional. We have had five State Superintendents in three years. Our teachers and students are the ones who suffer from this the most.”

Additionally, SB 397 would mandate that the newly formed commission replace Common Core in Alabama.

This comes in the wake of Marsh introducing a bill this session to replace Common Core in the state of Alabama. That bill stalled in the House Education Policy Committee after passing the Senate. Marsh also cited the state’s poor educational outcomes and ranking in bringing that Common Core repeal.

SB 398, a bill which ensures the legislative minority caucus would have input in the governor’s appointments to the new commission, was also approved Wednesday by the House committee. Marsh said this is an integral part of his overall proposal, along with the constitutional amendment.

SB 397 and SB 398 are now in the hands of the full House. As it was amended by the committee, SB 397 (if passed by the House) will need to go back to the Senate for concurrence or nonconcurrence.

Governor Kay Ivey has come out in adamant support of the proposal.

As a constitutional amendment, SB 397 (if passed by the Alabama legislature) would need to be approved by the people of the state in a referendum. This would occur on the March 2020 primary election date.

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

3 days ago

Democrats united in opposition to lottery bill — Proposal not expected to get another vote

(S.Ross/YHN)

MONTGOMERY — Leadership of the Alabama House Democratic Caucus on Wednesday hosted a press conference to explain their opposition to SB 220, a constitutional amendment that would legalize a lottery in Alabama.

This came after the lottery legislation failed on a procedural vote on the House floor Tuesday afternoon, with only three Democrats voting for the lottery. Immediately before the Wednesday press conference began, State Rep. Merika Coleman (D-Birmingham) took issue with Yellowhammer News reporting that Democrats had blocked the lottery bill from advancing, with Coleman calling it “a bullshit article.”

However, House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels (D-Huntsville) then said that after a meeting, the Democratic Caucus is now indeed unanimous in their opposition to SB 220, with Daniels saying that the three prior “yay” votes are prepared to revert to the caucus position and vote “nay” if the proposal comes back up this session.

Daniels later said he does not personally think the lottery bill will be voted on again this session, however.

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Daniels and Coleman in the press conference both said that they are not opposing the lottery to simply oppose a lottery. Coleman outlined that she has supported a lottery for the state of Alabama for the last 17 years, though the Democratic Caucus believes there are “deliverables” or priorities of theirs that are more important than allowing the people of Alabama to vote on just any lottery proposal.

These priorities – the ones that the Democratic leaders advised were leading to their opposition – primarily include the belief that more of the lottery revenues should go to education and that essentially all of the lottery revenues should be earmarked.

The House minority leader said he needed these earmarks in writing in the legislation because that was the only way to guarantee the funding would go to where he wants it.

SB 220 as approved by the House Economic Development Committee would send 75% of revenue to the general fund and 25% to the Education Trust Fund. The only earmarked revenues would be 0.25% going to resources and treatment for gambling addicts.

The bill passed beforehand by the Senate did not allow for any revenue to benefit education.

Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) has said that lottery money benefitting the general fund would protect the education fund.

The general fund has obligations that are expected to grow significantly in the coming years, including Medicaid and the corrections system.

The Democratic Caucus leaders on Wednesday emphasized that a higher percentage of the revenues need to go to education and proposed some earmarking ideas for that education revenue, including a capped scholarship fund for higher education and pre-k, increases for retired teacher compensation and setting money aside for greater active teacher incentives, pay and resources.

That same type of earmarking is a demand for any general fund revenue, too. Daniels multiple times mentioned that the “rumor” floating around is that the general fund lottery revenues currently under SB 220 would go towards prison construction and even funding lawsuits brought against the state regarding recently passed laws, including the HB 314 abortion ban.

Coleman called it “deeply troubling” that un-earmarked lottery revenues could fund prison construction. She said her father asked her to vote against SB 220 so as to not fund “Kay’s prisons,” speaking of the governor.

The House Democratic leadership wants to see general fund lottery revenues earmarked for healthcare. Coleman explicitly advocated for this earmark going to “Medicaid expansion.” Daniels earlier in the day on “The Dale Jackson Show” called this “a rural healthcare expansion program,” seemingly avoiding the Obamacare stigma that “Medicaid expansion” has in Alabama.

Yellowhammer News reported Tuesday that the Democrats’ best chance for Medicaid expansion was the lottery bolstering general fund revenues. This is the same article Coleman took issue with.

Daniels was asked at the press conference if the Democratic Caucus would require that the clean, paper-only lottery proposed by SB 220 be expanded to include other electronic gaming to win their support. He acknowledged that was probably not a realistic expectation for a lottery to be able to pass, saying, “I’ll take it how I can get it.” Daniels reiterated that he just wants the paper lottery revenue going more to education proportionally and that essentially all of the lottery revenue must be earmarked similar to how the Democrats are proposing.

Near the end of the press conference, Daniels emphasized he will not “move forward on a new deal” with Republicans until the commitments Daniels said they made to him during the Rebuild Alabama talks are met. Daniels specified that means “a number of issues,” not just Medicaid or healthcare. He named the higher education funding structure as one of these other outstanding issues, saying Auburn and Alabama State did not get a fair shake from the nonpartisan ACHE formula that was used for the governor’s budget recommendations this year.

The sponsor of the lottery legislation, State Sen. Greg Albritton (R-Atmore), also appeared on “The Dale Jackson Show” on Wednesday and said he is not optimistic that SB 220 will pass out of the legislature and get to a vote of the people.

State Rep. Steve Clouse (R-Ozark), who is carrying the lottery bill in the House, reportedly told WSFA on Wednesday that the lottery will not come back up for a vote this session, meaning SB 220 is dead in his eyes.

Speaker Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) told reporters two hours after the Democratic press conference that the lottery bill is “probably” dead.

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

3 days ago

Senate committee advances Alabama equal pay legislation

(Representative A. Clarke/Facebook, Wikicommons, YHN)

A Senate committee has advanced legislation that seeks to end Alabama’s status as one of two states without an equal pay for equal work law.

The Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development Committee on Wednesday approved the bill by Rep. Adline Clarke (D-Mobile).

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The Alabama House of Representatives voted 98-0 last week to pass the bill.

The bill would prohibit businesses from paying workers less than employees of another race or gender without reasons to account for the difference.

Those reasons could include seniority, a merit system or productivity measures.

Clarke says she believes most businesses are paying employees equitably.

However, she said it is important to have a state law for when problems arise.

Alabama and Mississippi are the two states without pay equity laws.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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