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.

5 days ago

Five things to watch as Alabama legislative session enters final two weeks

(Pixinio, W. Donohue/Flickr, ALDOC ,Pixabay, YHN)

MONTGOMERY — The 2019 regular session of the Alabama legislature is expected to wrap up next week, and there are still a lot of important issues to be decided.

Legislators have already made history by passing the Rebuild Alabama Act in a special session and have used the regular session thus far to pass bills ranging in purpose from economic development competitiveness to challenging Roe v. Wade, with dozens of local bills and constitutional amendments flying under the radar.

While the Department of Corrections crisis will likely be considered later on in the year during another special session, the Yellowhammer State is set to see a whirlwind finish on Goat Hill leading up to Memorial Day and through either Thursday, May 30, or Friday, May 31.

Here are the top five issues to watch before then:

848

1. Show me the money. Regular sessions start and end with the budgets, and 2019 is no different. The main hang up has been the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), with Governor Kay Ivey proposing that the $35 million program be funded out of the Education Trust Fund (ETF) this time around instead of the General Fund. Remember, this was done to offset Ivey ending approximately $30 million of the annual diversion from roads and bridge that has been covering for shortages in ALEA and court system funding.

Legislators have been haggling over whether the full CHIP amount proposed by Ivey will be funded through the ETF in the final version of the budget, with neither the Senate-passed education budget nor the House-passed General Fund budget paying for it.

The education budget is set to be amended by the House Ways and Means Education Committee on Tuesday, with that committee voting on Wednesday. The general fund budget awaits consideration before the full Senate after the Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee proposed to pay for half of the total CHIP funding ($17,500,000). Keep an eye out to see if both budgets end up partially paying for CHIP or whether one will indeed pay the full amount.

2. It’s a crapshoot. The lottery hangs in the balance in the House, with a combination of hardline conservatives and the Democratic Caucus threatening the people of Alabama’s ability to vote via referendum on the issue.

Despite Democrats for decades advocating for a state lottery, it is their party’s block of votes in the House that could end up sinking the proposal this time around. There are enough Republicans with moral and fiscal objections to the lottery making Democrats’ votes very much needed to get to the 60% threshold needed for a constitutional amendment.

These Democrats have complained that the clean, paper-only proposal does not expand other gaming across the state, saying more forms of gambling like slot machines would increase revenue even more. Keep in mind that Senate Deputy Minority Leader Billy Beasley’s (D-Clayton) bill to legalize electronic bingo in Macon County failed on the Senate floor on Thursday, receiving 19 “yay” votes and only one “nay” while not reaching the necessary 60% mark of 21 affirmative votes. VictoryLand and GreeneTrack sideshows could very well lead to Democrats doing a backflip on their longstanding commitment and torpedoing the best chance a lottery has to pass in this quadrennium — and for the foreseeable future.

3. Irony? Sure, this is an exaggeration, but it seems like the legislature is taking longer to consider direly needed legislation to reform the Board of Pardons and Paroles than it took for the board to prematurely release some inmates.

The House certainly took awhile, but did finally pass HB 380 by State Rep. Connie Rowe (R-Jasper) two weeks ago. This legislation is supported by Attorney General Steve Marshall and Ivey, and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) is carrying the bill in the Senate.

However, HB 380 and its companion bill sponsored by Ward have yet to even get consideration in his own committee. The lack of movement is seriously concerning many around Montgomery, as the board tries to cling onto its power with the session nearing its end.

4. Should the state school board be a popularity contest? The Senate on Thursday unanimously passed a groundbreaking constitutional amendment that proposes to turn the state school board into a commission appointed by the governor, with the superintendent replaced with a secretary chosen by those board members. The legislation, sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) and supported by Ivey, would also mandate that Common Core is replaced in Alabama.

As a constitutional amendment, this bipartisan legislation would go to a referendum of the people on the March 2020 primary election date, just like the lottery if it survives the House. Observers view this measure as a major first step in turning the state’s dismal k-12 public education rankings and outcomes around.

5. It’s never over. The abortion issue isn’t going away. A bill by State Rep. Ginny Shaver (R-Centre) to safeguard against infanticide is expected to be debated on the House floor on Tuesday.

Along with a bill to eliminate the custodial rights of a parent convicted for rape or incest if the crime resulted in the conception of the child that has been passed by the House and is set to be considered by the Senate, this means that Alabama’s recently passed HB 314 will continue to factor into proceedings in both chambers.

Honorable mentions: While we listed only five issues here, the end of this regular session is going to be jam-packed with interesting legislation. A few honorable mentions that come quickly to mind are State Rep. Kyle South’s (R-Fayette) daily fantasy sports contests bill, the package of different rural broadband bills that still need final passage and State Rep. Terri Collins’ (R-Decatur) Alabama Literacy Act.

Follow @sean_yhn for live updates from the State House as the session winds down.

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

Congressional support, Air Force decision create critical opportunity for Alabama aerospace industry

(ULA/Contributed, YHN)

Winning the national security space race is crucial for America’s ability to defend itself. Recently, several members of Alabama’s congressional delegation fought to equip the nation for success when they petitioned the Air Force to select a U.S. launch provider based on a competitive, timely process in the best interest of national security.

The Air Force chose to move forward with that approach and has entered the next round of awards which result in an opportunity for Alabama’s aerospace industry to increase its impact on America’s space program.

Because of Alabama’s strong leadership in Washington, Alabama-based aerospace companies are ready to compete to bring the work home. Learn more.

1

Byrne: Give them an inch, and they’ll take your rights

(B. Byrne/Facebook)

Last week I had the great experience to join my colleagues in a little friendly competition at the Congressional Clays Competition hosted by the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus. It was great to express our Second Amendment rights with some healthy rivalry, but it reminded me of those in this country who cannot express this right freely.

Our Founding Fathers enshrined the right to keep and bear arms in our nation’s Constitution. Throughout our history, we have seen the importance of the Second Amendment for people to make a living, to provide for their families, and to protect their life and liberty.

514

Unfortunately, there are those in the United States who want to limit our Constitutional rights and infringe upon our freedoms. One place, in particular, trying to restrict the rights of gun owners to defend themselves is the city of New York. Based on their unconstitutional regulations, a court case, N.Y. State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. City of New York, has been underway to right this egregious wrong. After several appeals, this case will determine if New York’s ban on transporting a handgun to a home or shooting range outside city limits is constitutional.

When I heard this case was heading to the Supreme Court, I knew something had to be done. That is why I led 120 of my House colleagues in filing an amicus brief before the Court in support of the right to bear arms. An amicus brief, known as a “friend of the court” brief, is filed by parties not in a case to provide the court with information, expertise, or insight on an issue.

Our Constitution is clear: the right to bear arms shall not be infringed. This case will provide the Supreme Court the first significant Second Amendment case in nearly ten years. Importantly, this will be the first time President Trump’s nominees, Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, will get a chance to rule on the Constitutional right to keep and bear arms for protection and sport.

It is vital the Court use this opportunity to rein in out of control liberal legislatures and judges who are trying to destroy the Second Amendment rights of Americans.

As a gun owner and avid hunter, I know how important it is for folks to express their rights. Many people I have heard from in Alabama over the years feel the same way. It seems far-left Democrats throughout the nation have lost touch with our founding principles many still hold dear.

Some people might say that this is only a New York issue that the Supreme Court should stay out of. But, when it comes to our Constitutional rights, it only takes an inch for a mile-wide divide to start. It doesn’t make sense that people of New York be held to a different standard than the people of Alabama, New Mexico or Montana.

We must be constantly vigilant against such encroachments. This is a matter of privacy, telling you what you can and cannot carry in your own vehicle, and this is a matter of the sanctity of one of the oldest freedoms we know as Americans.

The Second Amendment enshrines an individual and fundamental right of citizens to protect themselves from violence and tyranny. Courts should block attempts to restrict those rights based on disingenuous arguments like those made by the city of New York. My colleagues and I were proud to call on the Supreme Court to uphold the Constitution and protect the rights of American citizens to own firearms.

No matter what, I will continue to be a strong advocate for gun owners throughout the United States, standing up to out-of-touch Democrats and fighting for our rights.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope.

5 days ago

Three officers shot in Auburn, one fatally

(@Pct4Constable/Twitter)

For the second time in a matter of months, a major manhunt had to be launched in Lee County after a suspect opened fire on police officers responding to an everyday call.

On Sunday night, officers were responding to a domestic disturbance call at a mobile home park in the 3000 block of Auburn’s Wire Road.

“Once on scene officers were met with gun fire from a white male suspect, later identified as Grady Wayne Wilkes, age 29,” the Auburn Police Department said.

One officer was shot and killed. Two more officers were wounded, at least one of them critically. Since the shooting, it has been announced that the two wounded officers are expected to recover, according to Opelika-Auburn News.

330

WSFA is reporting that Lee County Coroner Bill Harris said the officer who died had been airlifted from the scene to East Alabama Medical Center. One of the injured officers was airlifted to a separate hospital, while the third was taken by ambulance.

Following the shooting, a massive hunt was conducted to locate and apprehend Wilkes, who was considered armed and dangerous. A Blue Alert was activated, which occurs when a local, state or federal law enforcement officer in Alabama has been killed or seriously injured and the perpetrator is at large. Wilkes was reportedly wearing camouflage, body armor and a helmet at the time of the shooting.

Speaking to local media early Monday morning, Auburn Police Chief Paul Register said, “This is probably the worst day of my time here and words cannot express the loss for this family, and our family, and this community.”

As of 7:55 a.m. Monday morning, law enforcement officials announced that Wilkes had been taken into custody.

This shooting also triggered Auburn University’s campus safety notification systems, as the initial shooting was approximately five miles down Wire Road from the Veterinary Medicine School.

This comes the day after the conclusion of National Police Week, which honors law enforcement bravery and commemorates officers who died in the line of duty the year previous. In 2018, Alabama lost Mobile Police Department Officer Taylor Billa and Huntsville Police Department Officer Keith O’Neal Earle.

Birmingham Police Department Sgt. Wytasha Carter and Mobile Police Department Officer Sean Tuder were shot and killed in the line of duty since the beginning of 2019.

The slain Auburn officer’s name has yet to be released as of 9:30 a.m.

In February, two suspects died at an apartment complex across from the Auburn University Vet School after one shot an Auburn Police officer during a traffic stop. That officer survived.

This story may be updated after Auburn Police’s 11:00 a.m. press conference.

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

5 days ago

7 Things: Alabama is everyone’s punching bag, Trump warns Iran, Alabama has another great month for jobs and more …

(YHN, Pixabay)

7. Another bombshell report by the New York Times falls apart when you actually read it

— A few weeks ago, President Donald Trump’s tax returns were huge news as an innuendo-laden exposé in the “paper of record” told the story of financial ruin that Trump told two decades ago himself. Now, the huge story is that management at Deutsche Bank ignored their junior money laundering detectors and dismissed their concerns, with the implication being money laundering totally happened. As usual, the text of the story betrays the narrative because the article clearly states, “Real estate developers like Mr. Trump and Mr. Kushner sometimes do large, all-cash deals, including with people outside the United States, any of which can prompt anti-money laundering reviews. The red flags raised by employees do not necessarily mean the transactions were improper. Banks sometimes opt not to file suspicious activity reports if they conclude their employees’ concerns are unwarranted.”

6. Congressman Justin Amash (R-MI) becomes the first Republican to hint at President Trump’s impeachment

686

— Taking to the president’s favorite medium, Amash tweeted out a 13-tweet thread that concluded that he believed the president “engaged in impeachable conduct” and that Attorney General William Barr was misleading the public. This enraged the president and his supporters, with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) saying that this was attention seeking by Amash. Trump’s adversaries like Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) said Amash “showed more courage than any other Republican in the House or the Senate.”

5. Former Vice President Joe Biden has started off his campaign rallies by declaring we shouldn’t question people’s intentions and then doing just that

— On Saturday, Biden launched his 2020 presidential campaign by calling for the country to put aside angry politics, and then went on to attack President Trump. Biden said, “Our politicians, politics today traffics in division and our president is the divider-in-chief, but he’s not the only one, far from it. He’s just the worst practitioner of politics that singles out, scapegoats and demonizes.” Biden also said that some Democrats don’t want to hear about unity, and he thinks that we don’t need to elect an “angry” candidate. The campaign rally was Biden’s attempt to show that his campaign will be about unity and calm politics.

4. Governor Kay Ivey says, “I am proud to be from Alabama the Beautiful,” but remains silent as the media backlash surrounds her state

— Governor Ivey hasn’t said much about the abortion bill that she signed that helped set off a weekend of attacks on her home state. But on Friday, she announced the dispersion of funds made possible by the Gulf of Mexico Energy and Security Act Program which was formed after the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Ivey announced the 15 projects and 22-plus million dollars of funding saying, “With projects like these, we’re able to restore and conserve our state’s natural beauty.”

3. Alabama has had another record-breaking month for employment

— According to the latest report from the Alabama Department of Labor for the month of April, 32,335 more people were working this year in April than last year, and there were also 6,379 more people working in April than in March. This is the fourth month in a row that Alabama has seen record-breaking employment. The largest gains were seen in the leisure and hospitality industry, construction and professional and business services.

2. President Trump has warned that war with Iran will be the end of Iran

— Hours after a rocket landed less than a mile away from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad’s Green Zone, President Trump tweeted, “If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!” Tensions have been rising between the United State and Iran in recent weeks after Iran threatened attacks against U.S. interests. The Trump administration responded by sending warships and bombers to the Middle East. Sunday’s attack is the first of its type since September.

1. Everyone has an opinion on the abortion ban in Alabama and they’re making sure their voices are heard

— The national and local media have given plenty of attention to the abortion ban, with AL.com alone publishing at least two dozen articles about the ban within the last 48 hours. Even President Donald Trump weighed in on the issue, saying, “As most people know, and for those who would like to know, I am strongly Pro-Life, with the three exceptions – rape, incest, and protecting the life of the mother – the same position taken by Ronald Reagan.” “Saturday Night Live” also had a field day with the issue, performing skits that focused on the bill and even called out Alabama state senators by name that voted for the bill. On the SNL segment “Weekend Update,” Leslie Jones said, “You can’t control women because I don’t know if y’all heard, but women are the same as humans. And how is Alabama’s woman governor going along with this? What?” A lot of people against the abortion ban in Alabama seem to be struggling to understand how a woman could be pro-life.

5 days ago

‘Bernieham’ — Sanders threatens Alabama’s right-to-work status during campaign visit

(Jeff Poor/YHN)

BIRMINGHAM — Since 1953, Alabama has officially been a right-to-work state, meaning that union membership is not required by law for employment.

However, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) vowed to change that if he is elected president during a campaign stop in the Magic City on Sunday.

In addition to a so-called “living” minimum wage, health care and college education for all and a vow to crack down on the fossil fuel industry, the Vermont U.S. Senator told attendees unionizing will be easier with him as commander-in-chief.

86

“We are going to make it easier for workers to join unions, not harder,” Sanders said. “And Alabama, listen up — because we are going to end right-to-work laws.”

The 2020 Democratic presidential primary is set to be Sanders’ second time competing in Alabama. In 2016, he finished second to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with 19% of the Democratic primary vote.

@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.

6 days ago

UAB awarded approximately $50 million from NIH for translational science

(Made in Alabama)

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded the Center for Clinical and Translational Science (CCTS) at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) with approximately $50 million in new funding to support ongoing research, career development and pre-doctoral training.

The CCTS was established at UAB in 2008 and is funded through the Clinical and Translational Sciences Awards (CTSA) from NIH’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences. The program is one of more than 50 CTSA programs nationwide. The CCTS was created to enhance the translation of fundamental and clinical research into improvements for human health and health care delivery. At UAB, the center cultivates opportunities for research locally, regionally and nationally through partnerships with academic health centers, research institutes and universities.

The new federal funding will come over the course of five years, which perfectly matches UAB’s CCTS just being renewed again for the same period of time. Over the past 11 years, the Birmingham center has secured more than $123 million in federal funding and has granted 62 pilot awards.

Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) made the funding announcement, praising the life-saving work being conducted at UAB.

272

“NIH’s decision to continue supporting translational science efforts at UAB is a clear indication of the excellent work taking place at CCTS,” Shelby said in a statement. “Advancing biomedical research to find treatments and cures for patients is of the utmost importance, and I am proud UAB is receiving additional funding to further this cause. I look forward to continuing to work with UAB, NIH, and my colleagues to improve medical services in Alabama and throughout the nation.”

Shelby, the powerful chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, has long been credited with being a staunch champion of both UAB and the NIH. Experts say he has had an unprecedented impact on higher educational and medical research growth in the Yellowhammer State during his time in office.

“UAB’s CCTS is translating observations in the laboratory, clinic and community into interventions that improve the health of our citizens and our society overall,” Dr. Ray L. Watts, UAB president, stated. “We are proud of the contributions our CCTS and its Partner Network are making to bring more new treatments to more patients more quickly than ever before.”

“As the sole Alabama-based hub in the NCATS-funded CTSA program, the CCTS has been a driving force for scientific innovation and excellence for the past decade,” Robert Kimberly, M.D., CCTS director and senior associate dean for Clinical and Translational Research at the UAB School of Medicine, added. “Through its leadership, as evidenced by an astounding array of research supports and collaborations, the CCTS is transforming the biomedical research environment at UAB and beyond.”

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

6 days ago

Can cleaning the ocean be marketed?

(4Ocean/Facebook)

Trillions of pieces of plastic are creating huge garbage patches in the world’s oceans. One company’s efforts to do something about this problem can lead us to rethink some perceived economic wisdom.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimates that two million tons of plastic enters the world’s oceans each year. Most of this waste results from irresponsible disposal. Ocean currents have created five major garbage patches. The most notable is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch between California and Hawaii, double the size of Texas and containing 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic. The patches are nuisances, can harm ocean life, and provide one rationale for banning plastic straws, silverware, and bags, although the wisdom of plastic bans is a topic for another day.

566

Floridians Andrew Cooper and Alex Schulze witnessed the ocean trash problem while surfing in Bali and started 4Ocean in response. As the company’s website describes it, “Devastated by the amount of plastic in the ocean, they set out to find out why no one was doing anything about it.”
The problem was that no one could get paid to pick up the trash, and Mr. Cooper and Mr. Schulze hit upon an idea. For $20, customers can buy a 4Ocean bracelet made from recycled plastic and remove one pound of trash. To date, 4Ocean has removed more than 4.4 million pounds of plastic.
Can we trust that 4Ocean removes trash from the ocean? To assure customers, 4Ocean relies on Green Circle Certification. Green Circle provides third party certification of a variety of environmental claims, including recycled content in products, energy savings, and carbon footprint reduction. Companies like 4Ocean pay Green Circle to assess their operations. For certified claims, Green Circle lets the customer use their symbol and enters the product in their online database.

Certification seemingly faces a conflict of interest: Won’t Green Circle always certify the claims of paying customers? While this is a danger, ultimately a third party certifier really sells only its veracity. 4Ocean will only pay if Green Circle’s seal matters to potential customers. Green Circle, which has been in business since 2009, makes money over time only by being honest.

Third party certification has a long history. The case most studied by economists is Underwriters’ Laboratories, which tests consumer products for safety. The UL stamp assures insurers that lamps, toasters, and other products are not fire hazards.

How does this relate to government and environmental protection? Americans value protecting the environment, but conventional wisdom holds that business cannot make money protecting the environment. Any commercial venture must charge for its product or service, and normally does so by allowing only paying customers to get the product or service.

Yet allowing only paying customers to benefit from environmental protection is almost impossible: everyone benefits if the Great Pacific Garbage Pile is cleaned up. If businesses cannot market environmental protection, we will have to turn to government and taxes.

We have an incentive to let someone else clean up the ocean, but also like to contribute to good causes. 4Ocean taps into this sentiment, and their bracelet lets customers to show off their good deed. Environmental groups raise millions of dollars in a similar fashion. Charities do this too; Save the Children allows donors to learn the story of a child they “rescue.”

Proponents of government action will point with justification that the funds raised through markets to protect the environment are small relative to the scale of the problems. The 2,200 tons of plastic 4Ocean is just a drop in the bucket. Yet government efforts can be poorly funded, very costly, and of poor quality. The Government Accountability Office has repeatedly documented the flaws of the Energy Star labeling program.

Ultimately we must pay for environmental protection. Businesses and charities must deliver to continue being supported by their customers or patrons. Each success in marketing environmental protection enables a valuable alternative and should be celebrated.

Daniel Sutter is the Charles G. Koch Professor of Economics with the Manuel H. Johnson Center for Political Economy at Troy University and host of Econversations on TrojanVision. The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Troy University.

6 days ago

VIDEO: Alabama’s abortion bill gets plenty of attention, changes to a proposed lottery fund education, tariffs hurt Alabama farmers and more on Guerrilla Politics …

Radio talk show host Dale Jackson and Dr. Waymon Burke take you through this week’s biggest political stories, including:

— Is Alabama’s abortion ban good policy or good politics?

— Will the 25 percent allocated for education secure the passage of a lottery in Alabama?

— Will Alabama farmers blame President Donald Trump or the previous administration for the current impact tariffs are having on their livelihoods?

63

Jackson and Burke are joined by Democratic activist Pam Miles to discuss plans to protest Alabama’s abortion ban and how Democrats in Alabama move forward.

Jackson closes the show with a “parting shot” at those perpetrating the “25 white men” narrative when discussing Alabama’s abortion ban.

https://www.facebook.com/303363616352436/posts/2418925051462938/

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

Roby: A pro-life update from the federal level

(M. Roby for Congress/Facebook)

Throughout my time in Congress, I have been staunchly and unapologetically pro-life. I will continue to use this platform to fight for life at every stage because unborn babies cannot fight for themselves. Since much of the news in our state and throughout the country lately has focused on recent pro-life efforts, I would like to take this opportunity to share an update about my work on the federal level to defend the unborn.

In February of this year, the Trump Administration’s Department of Health and Human Services issued a rule that would restrict Title X family planning grants from being steered to entities that are not physically and financially separate from abortion providers. A series of court injunctions have frozen these rule changes, and as a result, hundreds of abortion facilities, like Planned Parenthood, are still receiving federal tax dollars through Title X grants.

561

While the rule is going through the judicial process, the Democrat majority on the House Appropriations Committee has elected to tie the hands of the Department of Health and Human Services through legislation stating that the Department may only act in accordance with regulations established prior to January 18, 2017, just two days before Donald Trump became President. This is unacceptable – we simply cannot handcuff the current administration to regulations of the past.

During the recent full Appropriations Committee markup of the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Subcommittee Fiscal Year 2020 funding bill, I offered an amendment that would allow the courts, rather than the Democrat majority in the House, to decide the fate of the Trump administration’s proposed rule restricting Title X family planning grants from being awarded to facilities that provide abortions. Despite the inclusion of the Hyde Amendment, abortion providers have been able to get their hands on American tax dollars through these Title X funds. I am unapologetically pro-life, so I don’t want this to happen, and the majority of the people I represent don’t want this to happen.

The Trump administration’s proposed rule would draw a clear, bright line between family planning services and abortion providers. Unfortunately, my amendment did not pass, but to ensure that the rule has a fighting chance of becoming law, we must allow it to go through our judicial process – not block it legislatively as part of a political game.

In addition to the Department of Health and Human Services, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is also taking measures to stand up for the unborn. Two foreign companies, Aid Access and Rablon, have been known to distribute chemical abortion drugs to customers in the United States by mail-order. This practice is already illegal, and the FDA has taken action against it, but it is still happening.

This abortion drug, called Mifeprex, is approved by the FDA, but it is only legally available to patients in the United States through health care providers. It is not available in retail pharmacies, and it is certainly not legally available on the Internet. However, these abortion-by-mail providers, primarily based in Europe, have widened their consumer base to include the U.S. They provide remote consultations, send prescriptions to be filled in India, then send the abortion drug to U.S. customers by mail.

By violating the FDA’s safety protocols, these companies are endangering the health of American women and their children. The FDA has been combating these practices, but I recently led a letter, signed by 117 of my colleagues, that was sent to Dr. Norman Sharpless, acting FDA commissioner, urging him to further crackdown. I was proud to join my fellow pro-life colleagues in sending the clear message that we will not tolerate these dangerous, illegal practices, and I applaud the steps the FDA has already taken to protect women and unborn children.

I share these updates to make the point that while we still face challenges, our pro-life momentum is strong, and I will keep pushing forward on the federal level. I want the people I represent in Alabama’s Second District to know that defending the unborn remains a top priority of mine, and I will continue to speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves.

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

6 days ago

University of Alabama, other Southern flagship universities see biggest bump in enrollment

(Alabama NewsCenter/Contributed)

Enrollment at several universities in the South jumped more than 50 percent in a decade, according to data from the College Board.

University of Arkansas saw its number of full-time students grow 63 percent from 2007 to 2016, the most of any flagship university. University of Alabama and University of Mississippi had the next largest increases at 55 percent and 51 percent, respectively.

In addition to the allure of football tailgate parties, students may have been enticed by lower tuition fees and living expenses. Among the 50 flagships, University of Arkansas ranked No. 38 in cost, while Alabama was No. 30 and Ole Miss came in at No. 44.

288

Admissions officers should take note. The high school class of 2012 ushered in a first wave of declines in the number of graduates nationwide, according to a report by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education in Boulder, Colorado. The trend will worsen after 2025, when the impact hits from a drop in births that began with the 2007 recession.

Some of the boost in enrollment at schools in warmer locales coincides with a rise in the region’s population growth, with exceptions. Florida’s population grew by 2.45 million since 2010 while its flagship university saw enrollment slide 4.4 percent from 2007 to 2016.

Studying in the Sunshine State comes with a hefty price tag for non-residents. Out-of-state students at the University of Florida pay more than four times what their in-state counterparts pay, the largest premium among the 50 flagship schools. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill ranks second. Out-of-state students there pay more than $35,000 in tuition while those in-state pay less than $9,000.

University of Michigan is the most expensive flagship university for out-of-state students, at close to $50,000 per year. Next are University of Virginia and University of California at Berkeley. All three are consistently among the top-ranked U.S. public colleges.

Meanwhile, the cost gap for in-state and out-of-state students decreased the most at University of Georgia over the last decade.

University of MontanaUniversity of Idaho and University of Alaska saw the biggest declines in enrollment despite their in-state tuition costs trailing their faster-growing counterparts. Enrollment also tumbled at University of South Dakota, which has the best deal for out-of-state students. Tuition and fees for the 2018-19 school year there were just $12,425.

(With assistance from Janet Lorin and Marie Patino. Contact the reporter at shagan9@bloomberg.net.)

This article first appeared on Bloomberg.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

6 days ago

Birmingham Botanical Gardens water features get a makeover

(Alabama NewsCenter/Contributed)

Every spring, visitors stream into the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. Children dart among the uprights at the Granite Garden fountain and dash to the Rose Gardens to see if the roses have started to bloom, or humor their parents and pose for photos.

Whether they’re coming for exercise or inspiration, guests of all ages and interests have a chance to enjoy the sights and sounds of springtime, and among these – in no small part – are the artistry and lyrical babbling of the gardens’ beloved water features.

491

Over the past two years, more than half of the gardens’ 14 water features have undergone a transformation, thanks to membership support and the combined efforts of Jane Underwood, operations manager with the Friends of Birmingham Botanical Gardens, and Virgil Mathews, district horticulture supervisor with the city of Birmingham. During your next visit, check out these newly refurbished water features – a testament to the dynamic relationship between garden and water landscape.

The Cochran Water Wall in the Hill Garden was the first to be rehabbed. Dedicated in 1988, it is the focal point of the garden.

“The water wall had stopped sheeting over the entire top edge. As a result, the basin was not filling up and recirculating,” Underwood says. “We had to figure out where water was going and how to repair it.”

Underwood and Mathews worked with Alabama Aquatics, which removed the tile on the back wall and sealed the wall before replacing the tile. Problem solved.

They then turned their attention to the 1967 Japanese Garden streambed because the water was not cascading over the waterfalls.

“It was flowing into cavities before it ever reached the waterfall,” Underwood says.

Parrot Structural Services pumped the cavities with hydraulic cement to fill the voids. They applied the same treatment to the Abroms Rhododendron Species Garden basin, the Curry Rhododendron Garden pond and the Fern Glade streambed.

The team was excited to discover a way to have the iconic North and South Urns repaired on-site. Dedicated in 1988, the urns are fixtures of the Formal Garden and help frame the space. Estes Paintingused epoxy to fill rust holes in the cast-iron vessels, sanded the urns and repainted them.

Alabama Aquarium & Pond Services (AAPS) then installed new pumps and placed them in such a way that they’re not visible from the paths,” Underwood says.

Other improvements were less extensive but no less important. In the Curry Rhododendron Garden pond, “horticulturist Tiffany Sutton had been filling the pond with a hose when the water level dropped,” Underwood says. A new pump with an auto-fill feature now fills it as needed.

The 2006 Loblolly Pine Cone fountain by sculptor Brad Morton in the Southern Living Garden also received a new pump. The Abroms Rhododendron Species Garden basin, which like most streambeds at the gardens was created with shotcrete applied directly to the soil without rebar to reinforce it, was rebuilt using reinforced concrete. Thanks to the combined efforts of Bright Future Electric and AAPS, the quaint pond in the McReynolds Garden greets visitors with the gentle welcome of a bubbly fountain.

“It’s amazing – the feel of the place – when the fountains are up and running,” Underwood says. “When you walk through the Japanese Garden or sit in the new swings in the Abroms Rhododendron Species Garden, water makes such a difference in the aesthetic of these spots. The gardens feel so alive.”

This story first appeared in the spring 2019 issue of The Garden Dirt magazine published by Friends of Birmingham Botanical Gardens.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

7 days ago

Abortion ban sponsor State Rep. Collins: Bill is attempting to establish personhood by using ‘the language Roe v. Wade uses’

(Screenshot/APTV)

After undergoing a controversial two weeks, the Alabama legislature passed the Alabama Human Life Protection Act, which was a ban on almost all abortions. Then on Wednesday, Gov. Kay Ivey signed it into law.

Those actions led to a national backlash, especially given the bill did not provide an exception for rape or incest. However, the bill’s sponsor Rep. Terri Collins (R-Decatur) still insists given the law’s language provided the best opportunity to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.

During an appearance on Huntsville radio’s WVNN on Friday, Collins discussed the public reaction to the legislature’s actions and how it differs from the so-called “heartbeat” bills other states are passing into law.

453

Collins told WVNN’s “The Jeff Poor Show” she was not surprised by the reaction. However, she also noted that given that the Alabama House of Representatives had been working into the late hours, she had not seen much of the national media’s reactions.

“I guess I am not surprised,” she said. “People feel very passionately about this issue regardless of the side that they’re on. And so, I knew there would be lots of rhetoric, lots of hate and lots of love.  So, I’ve seen all sides. I’ve not seen as much of the national media parts of it and maybe some of the blowback because I have had a very busy week in the legislature. And we’ve been there to almost midnight every night. And I’ve been working on other bills that are really, really important. I’ve not watched a lot of the national media.”

The Morgan County Republican explained the distinction between the bill she had sponsored and “heartbeat” bills passed by other legislatures like Georgia, which was an effort to use the same terminology as the Roe v. Wade decision.

“The heartbeat bill and some of the other bills address when the child is just considered a life and that we can protect that child from that point on,” Collins said. “This bill addresses the language that Roe v. Wade uses, which is ‘in utero,’ which is it doesn’t get into contraception. It doesn’t even get into conception of a baby as a person at conception. It doesn’t get into the Morning-After Pill. It simply says ‘in utero,’ which is the term for pregnant.”

“So once a woman is pregnant, then the abortion is now illegal for a doctor to perform,” she continued. “And it actually spells out in the bill that the woman is not held liable, or civilly liable. So, it is as clear and as simple as can be. Roe v. Wade decision was that baby in the womb was not a person. This bill simply says we believe that baby in the womb is a person based on current Alabama and the majority of our voters voting to be a pro-life state last fall. We feel it’s the time. I think you see other states feeling like the courts willing to look at that issue and send that decision back to the states.”

She went on to explain this was not the law she wanted for the state and hoped that ultimately, the federal courts would return the issue to the individual states.

@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.

7 days ago

State Sen. Arthur Orr: River port proposal to help with ‘wear and tear’ of roads, Would not provide yacht access for Decatur

(Screenshot/APTV)

Earlier during this year’s legislative session, State Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) put forth a proposal that would offer public financing for inland ports, which at the time would have come from revenue generated by an increase in the gas tax that is part of the newly passed Rebuild Alabama Act. Since doing so, the source of funding for his proposal has shifted from new gas tax revenue to money now freed up that was initially used to fund the courts.

However, some critics of Orr’s proposal have alleged the Republican senator was motivated by an allegiance to his employer Cook’s Pest Control, which sought the inland port funding to make Decatur accessible for yachts owned by the company.

During an appearance on “The Dale Jackson Show” on Huntsville radio’s WVNN, Orr clarified his proposal by explaining he sought to improve the inland river ports of Alabama, which includes Decatur as well as others, as an additional way to get goods to and from market.

600

“When the bill, the gas tax bill, was coming through, I had an amendment I wanted to offer,” he said. “I think we may have even talked about it on this show. The amendment said this: If we’re going to invest in the Port of Mobile, that’s fine. And dredging that harbor to get in larger ships – a good thing, a good investment for the state. Obviously not roads and bridges, but a good thing overall. When the goods come into the state, a lot of them will be transported on inland waterways. And there are inland ports all throughout the state. They are publicly owned by a local port authority, etc. all through the waterways. And so the premise of the bill was to enhance the tonnage going through Mobile, to and from. And also you could have a plant up here like Mazda-Toyota and shipping cars from up here down to the Port of Mobile. But you’ve got to have the ports to do it.”

Orr told Jackson such an offering could take wear and tear off the state’s roads given waterways would be used instead of roads and bridges to move goods.

“The premise is let’s have a pot of money to enhance the ports, which helps Mobile with its tonnage, and that all gets trucks off the highways and wear and tear off the highways because now they’re going to be on rivers,” Orr added. “If we take trucks’ wear and tear off the roads, then that’s kind of less money we have to spend on the roads. Kind of a wash, if you will, Dale.”

His proposal also included enhancements for intermodal freight transport to and from the Port of Mobile, which is being expanded as a result of the Rebuild Alabama Act.

“And another thing with the bill was to have an intermodal or two,” he continued. “If you look at Savannah, if you look at Norfolk, Hampton Roads, Charleston – if you look at 200 or 300 miles inland from each of those ports, they have a large inland port. If you take the stuff off, they rail it inland 200 or 300 miles, they take it to the intermodal, they offload, it the put it on trucks, and they disperse it. And again, the converse – truck it to the intermodal, rail it to the port and ship it out via the port in Mobile – all to enhance the tonnage coming and going from Mobile. So that’s what the bill did in two things.”

He went on to add that dredging marinas would not be allowed, just the publicly owned ports.

“There’s no dredging allowed, except in the port area,” he continued. “And somebody brought that up in committee, and we actually amended the bill to say no dredging of rivers. It just gets too expensive. You have to have a viable port.”

The Morgan County Republican also said it could not solely be for his home city of Decatur because it was done through a competitive grant program open to the 20-25 publicly owned ports throughout the state.

Orr denied the accusations that he was motivated by offering yacht access for his employer Cook’s Pest Control, and said they did not own a yacht.

“The family that I work for, the company I work for, the owners – they don’t have a yacht. They don’t even have a fishing boat.”

@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.

1 week ago

Flowers: Infrastructure package passage will be hallmark of success for Governor Kay Ivey and the legislature

(Governor's Office/Hal Yeager)

The five-day special legislative session that addressed the increase in the gas tax to fund an Infrastructure Rebuilding Program for the state was a remarkable success. I still marvel at the adroitness, efficiency and expediency in which the governor accomplished this monumental initiative. She called for a special session on the night of her State of the State address and within one week it was signed, sealed and delivered.

I have seen some successful special sessions in my lifetime of watching Alabama politics. However, I have never seen anything like this. George Wallace used special sessions continuously and regularly during his 20-year reign as king of Alabama politics. He got things accomplished this way. It is the way to go to crystallize the importance of an issue.

662

Kay Ivey’s success made Wallace’s hardball ploys look minor league. She got her mission accomplished in the minimum five days. It was an amazing success story that will be told in political circles for years.

She did her homework. She dug in and made it clear that infrastructure improvement was a must for Alabama. She had a plan, she worked it and she won and the people of Alabama won.

She was not doing it for self-serving reasons nor was she doing it to secure her place in history. However, I am here to tell you as an Alabama political historian, she earned a place in my book. She has earned her spurs and earned the name “Governor.” She showed her leadership and the title Gov. Kay Ivey.

Gov. Ivey was astute to address the issue in a special session within the regular session for several reasons. In a special session, legislators have to address only the issue the governor calls them in for. By calling for the concentrated special session within the regular session, it did not cost taxpayers anymore. It also got them around the 3/5 vote needed to bring a bill up before the budgets which is required in the regular session.

Her ability to reach across the aisle and garner Democratic support for passage of the program was noteworthy. She brought in all of the Democratic legislative leaders. She sat down with them and diligently worked to explain how important this agenda was to not only their constituents, but to the entire state.

Her reaching out to them was not only important for passage of this package, but it built the foundation for a successful and harmonious working relationship with all the members of the Legislature which has been missing for over a decade.

The relationships Kay developed with state senators as presiding officer of the Senate for six years paid off with not only the Republican leadership but also with Democratic leaders like Bobby Singleton.

She forged new friendships with both Republican and Democratic legislators in the House. She worked hard and developed a close working relationship with House Democratic leader, Anthony Daniels (D-Huntsville), who is a bright young star. This friendship will be good going forward for Ivey and the state.

Rep. Bill Poole (R-Tuscaloosa) was the leader in the House that worked closely with Gov. Kay Ivey to align the stars for passage. Poole drafted the bill, helped devise the strategy and fought for passage. He is probably the only House sponsor who could pull it off. Senator Clyde Chambliss (R-Prattville) did a brilliant job in the Senate. Both Poole and Chambliss are young with bright paths ahead in Alabama politics.

Expanding access to broadband internet in rural Alabama has been one of the cornerstone issues for Gov. Ivey and the legislature the last few years. This access to broadband today is as important as getting electricity was 60-75 years ago.

This initiative has moved to the forefront for passage as the session evolves. The magic formula for success is engrossed in House Bill 400. This legislation would logically and effectively allow electric utilities to use their existing infrastructure to run broadband to areas that do not have service today.

Opposition has arisen from big cable companies for obvious self-serving reasons. To allow these large out-of-state companies to thwart the passage of this important piece of legislation would be bad for the state. The need to run new fiber optic lines at great expense would make the initiative almost cost prohibitive.

Regardless, the cable companies and AT&T are working to kill this logical plan to extend broadband internet service to all Alabamians. They are also using some unsavory tactics in their attempt to kill Gov. Ivey’s initiative. Hopefully, their transparent efforts to derail this important legislation will be ignored by legislators who want what is best for Alabama.

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.

1 week ago

Lockheed Martin breaks ground on new Alabama production facility

(Lockheed Martin/Contributed)

Lockheed Martin officially launched construction on a new missile facility at its Pike County campus, where the company is accelerating production of strike systems.

Lockheed Martin said the new 225,000-square-foot facility, combined with the current cruise missile production factory on the Troy site, will provide the necessary space to meet the U.S. Air Force’s objectives.

“This expansion represents Pike County Operations’ long-standing commitment to meet our customer’s current and future needs as well as to bring more well-paying jobs to the area,” said Frank St. John, executive vice president at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control.

274

“All our employees come to work with an unwavering commitment to help our customers succeed in their mission to create a more secure and prosperous world.”

Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce, joined Lockheed Martin executives and U.S. Air Force officials at a groundbreaking ceremony this morning at the Troy location.

“We strive to provide a foundation in Alabama that allows aerospace companies like Lockheed Martin to establish world-class facilities that are positioned for expansion opportunities,” Secretary Canfield said. “Over the quarter century, the company’s Troy missile facility has grown from 30 employees to around 500 today, and the number is still growing.

“We look forward to seeing additional job creation in coming years.”

GROWTH PLANS

Lockheed Martin said construction on the new Alabama facility is slated for completion in 2021 with Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile Extended Range (JASSM-ER) production ramping up in the second half of 2022.

“We’re pleased to see Lockheed Martin continue to invest in our community with the addition of this new manufacturing building,” Troy Mayor Jason Reeves said.

“Their growth not only leads to more jobs — it enhances sustainable growth for our region.”

Lockheed Martin last initiated an expansion in Pike County in 2014, when it launched a project that was slated to create 224 full-time jobs over five years. The hiring milestones on that $65 million project have been met.

AIDT, the state’s primary workforce development agency, has been assisting Lockheed Martin’s Pike County operation for 25 years and opened a $2 million, 7,000-square-foot Advanced Training Center on the campus in 2017.

Today, Lockheed Martin is collaborating with AIDT to embrace the future of workforce development through piloting virtual reality, or VR, training.

(Courtesy Made in Alabama)

Rogers’ report from Washington: Standing up for Israel

(M. Rogers/Facebook, (Z. Evenor/Wikimedia Commons)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Recently in the halls of Congress, it’s become a much too common practice for some Democrats to spew hatred and anti-Semitism.

From Representative Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez to Representative Rashida Tlaib to Representative Illhan Omar, their words cut deeply. Their spreading of anti-Semitism is harmful to all Americans.

On the world stage, we have also seen the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement gaining traction and trying to hurt Israel. The BDS movement is cover for some of the world’s worst anti-Semites. The movement is ultimately devoted to the destruction of the state of Israel.
I am a strong supporter of Israel. Not only is Israel fundamental to my Christian faith, it is one of our greatest allies.

186

This week, to show my support, I, along with my Republican colleagues, signed a Discharge Petition to bring legislation to the House floor for a vote.

If the Discharge Petition gets 218 signatures, H.R. 336, the Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act of 2019, can be brought to the House Floor for a vote. The legislation reaffirms the United States’ commitment to Israel and against the BDS movement.

Months ago, the Senate passed similar anti-BDS legislation with some Democrat support. Meanwhile, in the House of Representatives, the legislation has been collecting dust on Nancy Pelosi’s desk because of some of the members of her party who have been outspoken critics of Israel.
There is no place in Congress or America for this type of hatred. It is vile and repugnant. It must be condemned.

I have been very disappointed in the Democrat leadership for not condemning this type of behavior and for not standing up for Israel. I hope we can bring this vote to the floor and show the world that we are standing up for and standing with Israel.

U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers is a Republican from Saks. 

1 week ago

Mother’s Day at Children’s of Alabama hospital brightened by special deliveries

(Children's of Alabama/Contributed)

While professional golfers on the PGA Tour Champions aimed for the greens at the Regions Tradition golf tournament, hundreds of volunteers packed green boxes to ensure mothers would feel like champions at Children’s of Alabama.

Birmingham’s Cheeriodicals coordinated a special delivery to the hospital on Mother’s Day in what was to be the last day of the golf tournament. A weather delay extended the tournament to Monday, which saw Steve Stricker claim his first major championship.

207

Throughout the past week, volunteers from RegionsGreystone Golf and Country ClubAlabama Power Service Organization and Edgar’s Bakery joined with some golf pros and others to pack the bright green Cheeriodicals boxes. Boxes were packed with items for mothers of children staying at the hospital as well as for the children themselves.

“I could not be prouder of the volunteers from Alabama Power Company who commit year over year and time and again to give their talent to causes that really help elevate the state,” said Myla Calhoun, president of the Alabama Power Foundation.

Some surprise deliveries were made to mothers during the Regions Pro-Am tournament. But the bulk were made at Children’s of Alabama on Sunday morning. The mothers were appreciative and often tearful for the show of love and support.

“It is an amazing thing really,” said Morgan White, a mother of an 8-month-old daughter who is scheduled for heart surgery Wednesday. “It really helps. Being in the hospital is hard anyways, but being in the hospital on Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, holidays is really, really nerve-wracking.”

“It’s going to be a great Mother’s Day,” White added. “I get to spend it with my daughter and now I have all of this stuff to help me cope.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

1 week ago

Auburn is advancing the state of Alabama on and off the court

(Auburn University/Flickr)

The Auburn Tigers’ great basketball season — culminating with a trip to the Final Four — drew much national attention to Auburn and the state of Alabama, as the team touched the hearts of countless fans, old and new, and became the state’s first school to reach that milestone.

It’s an excitement Auburn and our state should reflect off the court as well, as we partner to move the state forward and build a solid foundation for our great future. But, like on the court, we must have the determination to win by overcoming challenges, such as competition from faster-growing states and poor rankings. The state has historically not performed well in a number of national surveys, such as U.S. News’ rankings of the best states in which to live. However, we are currently experiencing economic growth and we continue to progress as a state.

634

Auburn, as a land-grant university, is poised to lead. Land-grant institutions give citizens access to a practical education that not only benefits the students, but strengthens communities and boosts economic opportunities. As an Auburn alumnus, I was already familiar with many university endeavors, but I learned even more when I served as chair of the Auburn University Foundation. Let’s look at facts you may not know.

Auburn educates more students from Alabama each year than any other institution, creates an annual economic impact of $5.4 billion, provides an eight to one return on every dollar invested in Auburn and makes immeasurable research advancements for our state and nation. Auburn’s impact affects our citizens from Huntsville to the Gulf Coast.

For example, many Alabamians earn their living through poultry. Auburn research is helping meet new consumer demands, leading the fight against diseases and providing food for a growing global population. Poultry accounts for 65.6% of annual farming revenue in Alabama and it employs more than 86,000 workers. It is just one of the many industries intertwined with Auburn.

University research is the key to developing industry partnerships, nurturing entrepreneurs and attracting new companies. The Auburn Research Park is a leading destination for business and industry looking to locate or expand in Alabama, and it is home to the Tiger Cage Accelerator and Incubator that helps student entrepreneurs fine-tune their business ideas and attract investors.

Another area in which Auburn leads the way is additive manufacturing. One alliance in this growing field is the university’s work with NASA to develop additive manufacturing techniques for improving the performance of liquid rocket engines. This is the latest expansion of a longstanding partnership involving Marshall Space Flight Center, Auburn’s Huntsville Research Center and Auburn’s main campus.

Auburn also provides advanced technology and training with Delta Air Lines to develop the next generation of pilots in the university’s new Delta Air Lines Aviation Education Building and through Delta’s Propel Pilot Career Path Program.

Research and technology have more than economic benefits, though. The College of Veterinary Medicine, which most likely taught your veterinarian, constantly makes breakthroughs to benefit pets and people. One area that comes to mind is the Auburn-developed Vapor Wake training for detector dogs, which keep our nation safe.

Still focusing on safety, Auburn has devoted tremendous resources to become a national leader in cybersecurity, led by its Charles D. McCrary Institute for Cyber and Critical Infrastructure Security. Students graduate prepared to protect the country, like recent cyber-engineering graduate Matthew Rogers who was named a Rhodes scholar.

In Birmingham, students at Auburn’s Urban Studio design neighborhood masterplans and create designs for public-use buildings in areas with potential for significant urban impact. In west Alabama, the 20K Initiative through the Rural Studio in Hale County is another great example. The initiative is a collaboration with Fannie Mae to develop quality, sustainable houses that give financially vulnerable citizens the ability to own a home.

Along the coast, the Auburn University Educational Complex at Gulf Shores offers veterinary care, aviation instruction and Alabama Cooperative Extension System programs. Throughout the state, Alabama Extension searches for ways to serve our citizens. For example, more people are interested in becoming farmers, so Alabama Extension offers a free, online Farming Basics course to help them get started.

In east Alabama, a new partnership between Auburn and Southern Union State Community College makes Auburn accessible and affordable to two-year college students who transfer and complete a bachelor’s degree. Auburn plans to expand this program to other community colleges, as nearly 900 students from two-year institutions transfer to Auburn annually.

It’s an exciting time for Auburn as a key institution that inspires students, strengthens communities and boosts economic opportunities — all advancing the state of Alabama.

Jeff Stone is executive vice president of Brasfield & Gorrie in Birmingham, an Auburn alumnus and past chair of the Auburn University Foundation.

1 week ago

Bait privilege license provides options for hog, deer hunting

(Jay Gunn/WFF)

A buddy of mine recently returned from vacation to discover what many landowners have been dealing with for the past couple of decades.

“Hogs tore up my place while we were gone,” the message read.

Now my friend has another tool that he can use to help minimize the impact of the scourge known as feral hogs.

The Alabama legislature recently passed legislation that allows hunters on privately owned or leased land to purchase a bait privilege license that makes it legal to hunt feral pigs (year-round during daylight hours only) and white-tailed deer (during the deer-hunting season only) with the aid of bait.

1100

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) is issuing the new license ($15 for resident individual hunters and $51 for non-residents) through any outlet that sells hunting licenses and online at https://www.outdooralabama.com.

Hunters who want to thin the destructive hog herd right now can purchase the license, but be aware that license will expire on Aug. 31. If you wish to hunt hogs or deer with the aid of bait during the 2019-2020 hunting seasons, you will need to purchase a new bait privilege license when it becomes available in late August.

The bait privilege license applies to everybody who hunts those species with the aid of bait with no exceptions. That means hunters 65 years old and older and hunters under 16 must have a valid bait license when hunting with the aid of bait. That also includes people hunting on their own property and lifetime license holders.

Plus, each hunter must have his/her own bait privilege license to hunt with the aid of bait.

Also understand that baiting any wildlife – including white-tailed deer and feral pigs – on public lands remains illegal.

Sen. Jack Williams (R-Wilmer) who has been dealing with the destructive feral hogs for years, sponsored the Senate bill. This was the fourth year Williams had submitted similar legislation.

“The biggest thing in my area is the hogs are tearing your property up,” said Williams, who farms and operates a plant nursery in Mobile County. “I’m overrun with them in my area. I killed one Easter morning off my porch, in my back yard. They were rooting my driveway up. We’re doing everything we can to kill them. We have more opportunities to kill them during deer season than any other time.”

Williams drew a parallel with how some natural wildlife forage can also congregate animals in tight spaces.

“In my viewpoint, there is not any difference between a group of deer eating the corn spread out or in a trough and white-oak acorns with all the deer up under that tree,” he said. “We’ve fed for years, and I think most people who are trying to grow any deer have too. We haven’t had any problems with it at all.”

Included in the law is a provision that ADCNR can suspend the use of the bait privilege license on a county, regional or statewide basis to prevent the spread of diseases, like chronic wasting disease (CWD), among wildlife.

Williams said he’s received significant feedback on his Facebook page about the bill, and the majority of responses have been positive.

“The polling we had before it was passed was about 84% in favor,” he said. “And it’s a choice. If you don’t want to bait, you don’t have to. If you own property, you can put in your lease that hunters can’t use bait. This is not being forced on you. It’s up to you if you do it or not.”

Williams thinks the use of bait illegally has been a common occurrence in Alabama in the past.

“People have been feeding anyway,” he said. “This is just making a lot of people legal. That’s the way I see it. I don’t see it helping the people who grow corn. I know every feed store around here that sells it, and they can’t get it in fast enough during hunting season. It’s not going to make the price of corn go up. That will be market price.”

Williams also mentioned, for those who choose not to hunt with the aid of bait, the Area Definition Regulation remains in effect. The Area Definition Regulation allows for supplemental feeding as long as the feed is more than 100 yards away and out of the line of sight of the hunter because of natural vegetation or naturally occurring terrain features.

Conservation Commissioner Chris Blankenship said this was not a Department-sponsored bill, but the Department did work with Senator Williams to include the provisions that help prevent the spread of disease.

“We wanted it to be clear in the bill that the Conservation Commissioner had the authority to suspend the baiting privilege if CWD or some other disease was detected,” Blankenship said. “It also says the Commissioner can suspend the feeding of wild game in areas where CWD or other disease might be present. This gives us some abilities to ensure that we can protect the deer herd in the case of a disease outbreak in our state.”

Blankenship said there has been much discussion regarding the bill.

“People like that this bill makes it clear that if they want to hunt with aid of bait, they can, like they do in Georgia and other states,” he said. “I’ve also got some calls from people who are unhappy, who don’t think it’s a way that you should hunt.”

Blankenship reiterated what Senator Williams said about choice to participate or not.

“This is not a requirement that people hunt over bait,” he said. “It’s a tool that people can use if that is what they prefer. Somebody who is totally opposed to that type of hunting can hunt the way they always have. This is just an option.”

Like Williams and my friend, Blankenship expects significant participation from people who are dealing with feral pigs.

“This may help us throughout the whole year to better help control the population of feral hogs,” the commissioner said.

Blankenship said the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division will continue to closely monitor the white-tailed deer herd and any harvest rate trends that might be associated with the use of bait.

“The Department will make sure this is not a detriment to the wildlife and that we have a healthy deer population in our state,” he said. “This is just another factor we will examine as we look at the health of the deer population. With the three-buck limit and other seasons and bag limits, we think our deer population will be fine.”

Revenue from sale of the new bait privilege license will be eligible for federal matching funds to support conservation efforts in the state. That revenue is determined, in part, by the number of licenses sold. Exempt hunters who buy a bait privilege license but don’t buy a hunting license will be eligible to be counted for federal matching funds.

Blankenship said he does not have a projection about the amount of revenue the bait privilege licenses will produce.

“We really don’t know right now,” he said. “After the first season, we’ll have a lot better idea.”

David Rainer is an award-winning writer who has covered Alabama’s great outdoors for 25 years. The former outdoors editor at the Mobile Press-Register, he writes for Outdoor Alabama, the website of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

1 week ago

Alabama logs record-high jobs in April fourth month in a row

(Pixabay, YHN)

Alabama continues on its path of record high employment and record-high job count, according to the latest report from the Alabama Department of Labor for the month of April.

An estimated 2,139,379 people were working in the Yellowhammer state during the month of April, up 32,335 from the same time a year ago, and up 6,379 since March, marking the fourth month in a row Alabama has had the most people ever working.

The number of estimated jobs in Alabama for the month of April reached 2,075,500, up 35,600 from the same time a year ago, and up 10,800 since March.

279

“Employment has once again reached record levels,” said Secretary of Labor Fitzgerald Washington. “Our economy is supporting more jobs than ever before and more people are in the labor force than ever before. Those that are entering the labor force are finding work. The jobs are out there, and we’re working harder than even before to make sure that everyone who wants a job, has one.”

Wage and salary employment also increased in April by 10,800.

The Alabama Department of Labor reports: “Monthly gains were seen in the leisure and hospitality sector (+4,300), the construction sector (+2,300), and the professional and business services sector (+1,700), among others.”

Washington added, “Average weekly earnings are also up, both over-the-month and over-the-year. Yearly increases in some of our high-wage industry sectors are showing employment growth, in some cases of more than 10%. This is great news for Alabamians who are looking for high-wage, high-skill jobs.”

According to the report, counties with the lowest unemployment rates are Shelby County at 2.4%, Marshall County at 2.8% and Tuscaloosa, Morgan, Madison, Lee, Elmore and Blount Counties all at 2.9%.

Counties with the highest unemployment rates are Wilcox County at 7.0%, Greene and Lowndes Counties at 6.5% and Clarke County at 6.0%.

Major cities with the lowest unemployment rates are Homewood at 2.2%, Alabaster, Hoover, Northport, and Vestavia Hills at 2.4% and Madison at 2.7%.

Major cities with the highest unemployment rates are Selma at 7.2%, Prichard at 5.8% and Anniston at 5.1%.

Alabama’s unemployment rate is up slightly as the seasonally adjusted jobless rate for April came out at 3.8%, which is one-tenth of a percent higher than March.

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

1 week ago

Ivey: ‘I am proud to be from Alabama the Beautiful’

(Gov. Ivey/Flickr)

Governor Kay Ivey on Friday announced a major distribution of funds made possible by the Gulf of Mexico Energy and Security Act Program (GOMESA).

In a release, the governor outlined that she has given initial approval to move forward with development and implementation of 15 projects from the state’s GOMESA distribution. The combined total of these projects, when implemented, will be $28,722,000.

“I am proud to be from ‘Alabama the Beautiful.’ When the Oil Spill impacted our Gulf Coast, we began working tirelessly to make sure we protected that area’s abundant natural resources, so that future generations could still know us as ‘Alabama the Beautiful,’” Ivey said.

249

In January, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADNCR) issued a call for project suggestions for the Alabama GOMESA allotment.

ADCNR then received 58 project suggestions from the public. These project suggestions, as well as projects submitted through the Alabama Restoration Project Portal, were considered for GOMESA funding. The governor’s office said that many of the submitted project suggestions would be beneficial to the state of Alabama, however, the amount of GOMESA funding each year restricts the number of projects selected for implementation.

“With projects like these, we’re able to restore and conserve our state’s natural beauty. Once all details are finalized, I look forward to seeing the full implementation of these 15 approved projects,” Ivey concluded.

A list of the 15 initially approved projects was not released by the governor’s office.

Project sponsors will now work with ADNCR on the implementation of the respective projects and provide support to accomplish the goals and objectives of the recommendations.

“ADCNR staff will now work with the project submitters to further develop the projects to obtain all the information that is needed for final approval and implementation. Several of these projects will increase boating access and recreational opportunities in coastal Alabama that is so important to the quality of life along the coast,” ADCNR Commissioner Chris Blankenship advised.

With the expectation of future GOMESA disbursements, the governor’s office and ADCNR will continue to evaluate funding opportunities for GOMESA projects.

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

1 week ago

Rumors and Rumblings, 2nd Ed. Vol. VII

(YHN)

“Rumors and Rumblings” is a regular feature on Yellowhammer News. It is a compilation of the bits and pieces of information that we glean from conversations throughout the week.

Enjoy.

670

1. “The only deadline is the one I give myself”

One place elected officials, candidates and political committees don’t want to see their names is on the civil penalty section of the Alabama Ethics Commission meeting agenda. Among the duties the ethics commission is charged with is handling missed filing deadlines for campaign and political action committees. The secretary of state’s office refers these cases to the commission which then decides whether to accept or reject the explanation for missing the deadline provided by the responsible person.

And, so, it has not gone unnoticed in political and legal circles that the Alabama Ethics Commission has a few filing deadlines of its own that it has missed. Under Alabama law, the commission is required to submit an annual report to the governor and the legislature at the conclusion of each fiscal year. As of the time of this article’s publishing, the commission has not filed any of its 2016, 2017 or 2018 annual reports. When Yellowhammer News contacted the commission about these reports, executive director Tom Albritton noted that the commission planned to submit a combined analysis of the 2016-2018 fiscal years in the very near future.

2. Mr. Tuberville goes to Washington

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville has drawn some criticism over his recent Florida residency, however the former Auburn head football coach has put together a campaign team that is about as Alabama as they come.

Tuberville also seems to be doubling down on his east Alabama ties. Rob Jesmer, a former chief of staff for Mike Rogers, will be handling media for the campaign, with Tripp Skipper, a former district director for Rogers, serving as the general consultant.

Skipper is well know in Alabama political circles and helped Tuberville with his exploration of the governor’s race in the 2018 cycle, so this hire was always the obvious move.

However, the real intrigue here revolves around Jesmer, who is a major power player in D.C. that gives Tuberville’s campaign some serious Beltway heft for a political outsider. Jesmer, a former executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), is also currently the general consultant for Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), who just term limited out after serving six years in the Senate Republicans’ second highest leadership role — the whip.

With Sean Spicer also advising the team, along with Erik Iverson of Moore Information doing polling and Jon Downs working with Jesmer on media, Tuberville is showing that he is 100% serious about mounting a professional, top-notch bid.

3. Making political odds-making great again

Alabama will hold its presidential primary elections on Tuesday, March 3, 2020. The early March date continues to place the state among the earlier presidential primaries. As a result, it can continue to expect occasional visits from candidates vying for their party’s national ticket. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) have all traveled to Alabama this year, and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) plans to visit Alabama in June to address the Alabama Democratic Conference.

With former Vice President Joe Biden widening his polling lead and President Donald Trump not facing any credible opposition on the Republican side, we thought it would be a good time to look at a snapshot of what the oddsmakers are thinking in the race. Scott Cooley and his team at sportsbetting.ag have provided us with data on where they see the field right now and who is the favorite to win the 2020 presidential election.

Cooley has Trump as the odds-on favorite followed closely by Biden. In order of likelihood, here is a broader list of the candidates and others who could win the election (remember, the higher the number the lower the odds of winning):

Donald Trump +100
Joe Biden +300
Bernie Sanders +1000
Pete Buttigieg +1400
Kamala Harris +2000
Beto O’Rourke +2000
Cory Booker +6600
Amy Klobuchar +6600
Mike Pence +8000
Niki Haley +10000
Hillary Clinton +20000
Mark Cuban +20000

With Buttigieg facing extreme difficulty in southern Democratic primaries, and O’Rourke getting more awkward by the day, there doesn’t seem to be much hidden value when you get farther down the list.

Episode 6: Introducing ‘Merin’

(YHPN)

Marshall and I team up for another episode in our relationship series. We agree to a couple name, chat about Millennial haters and how Marsh is a “Mougar,” discuss how we are learning to combat pettiness in every day life, encourage one another about givin’ all the grace and share how there really is beauty in one another’s differences. Also, don’t miss Marsh’s “Cheers” this week, which is to all the ladies out there!

1