8 months ago

Roby: More flexibility for America’s working parents

The American workforce has witnessed considerable change in dynamics during the 21st Century: it is more diverse than ever before.

Statistics consistently show the percentage of U.S. families with at least one working parent is on the rise, and it’s no secret that today’s working parents struggle to balance the demands required of them by their jobs and their children.

Time is the most precious resource, especially for mothers and fathers who are putting forth their best efforts to manage families while simultaneously excel in their careers. These hard-working parents deserve and need more choice and flexibility in their daily schedules in order to accomplish both. As a working mom myself, I understand the challenges parents face in managing these responsibilities. I always say that Congress cannot legislate another hour into the day, but we can update our laws to allow more choice and fairness in how employees choose to use their time.

As the dynamics of the workplace have changed over time, our policies that govern the workplace have not adapted to keep up with these changes. I am proud to again introduce the Working Families Flexibility Act of 2020. This piece of legislation offers compensatory time, or “comp time,” benefits in lieu of cash wages for overtime, allowing private-sector workers the same opportunity that currently exists in the public sector.

This bill amends the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 and removes an outdated and unnecessary federal restriction on the use of comp time in the private sector for hourly employees. Comp time would be completely voluntary for the employer and employee with strong worker protections to prohibit coercion. This is the same legislation I have introduced numerous times, and it passed the House on several occasions. This change in law would provide more flexibility for working moms and dads who need more time to manage their families.

Think about it this way: should a working dad be forced to use all of his vacation time to be involved in his child’s school? Should a military mom have to take sick leave in order to make sure her child is properly taken care of? Whether it’s a parent coaching a child’s sports team, caring for a sick or elderly family member, or getting children to and from school and extracurricular activities, family responsibilities often require parents to take time away from work.

As times have changed, so have demands on our time. This is one proposal that would offer private-sector American workers more freedom and more control over their time in order to spend it the way they choose. This piece of legislation is about the working moms and dads across the country who value their time. I am honored to introduce this bill again in order to show my support for all of the working parents across our nation and to hopefully make life a little easier for the moms and dads in our American workforce.

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

2 mins ago

New deer zones, Hunting 101 and transfer of possession requirement

Deer hunters will find two new zones in the 2020-2021 Alabama Deer Zones map with season dates that better coincide with deer rutting activity in those areas.

Chuck Sykes, Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Director, said studies have confirmed that deer in Zone D in northwest Alabama and Zone E in southeast Alabama rut significantly earlier than deer in most of the state.

“We have been conducting annual herd health checks for the past 15 years. Part of the data gathered was the reproductive status of the animal. That data is what helped us move the season into February. We also determined we had deer that rutted early.” Sykes said. “We already knew this from historical stocking data, but it took us a little more time to determine some clear-cut boundaries that would take in those areas. It was pretty easy to set up Zone A and Zone B. We basically just divided the state. But D and E are isolated pockets with early rutting deer, so it took a little more time to get those boundaries defined. Once we got the boundaries defined, it was a logical step to make those new zones.”

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Sykes said in the majority of the state the deer rut considerably later, and it was reasonable to move the season dates to close on February 10. The seasons in Zone D and Zone E start early and end early.

“Because of the early rut in Zone E, some of those deer were already casting (shedding) their antlers,” he said. “So, people who were trying to fill their freezers later in the year ended up shooting 2- and 3-year-old bucks that had cast their antlers, thinking they were just shooting a big, old doe. The season comes in early to cover the rut, but it also goes out early to try to protect those bucks that had already shed.”

Newcomers to hunting or those with little experience can take advantage of the WFF’s Adult Mentored Hunts (AMH), which Sykes said has been tweaked for the 2020-2021 season. Last year, a requirement to take a one-day workshop to be eligible for an AMH event was implemented. This year, potential participants can take a Hunting 101 or Introduction to Deer or Turkey to meet the requirement.

“What we found was we had too many people backing out at the last minute,” he said. “Now, with the introductory courses or Hunting 101, people have to have a little skin in the game. Once you complete the one-day workshop, you will be eligible for one of the three-day, full-blown Adult Mentored Hunts. Last year, our participation rates went through the roof on our three-day hunts. The people who were eligible had already been to the one-day workshop, and they had figured out if they wanted to participate. Our staff puts in a lot of work and effort to make these hunts happen, and to have somebody cancel at the last minute was taxing on us. Plus, I’m sure there would have been a lot of people willing to take that slot on one of the best hunting areas in the state.”

WFF’s Justin Grider, who has been in charge of the AMH events since their inception four years ago, said the new format has achieved positive results in terms of hunter recruitment.

“We’re finding that people who are self-motivated are signing up for the Hunting 101 workshop,” Grider said. “If they are willing to give up a Saturday and learn about hunting and firearms safety at one of our public shooting ranges, we’re finding they are more likely to continue hunting as a result. Whereas, our previous format was come one, come all. Whoever wanted to apply could, and the participants were randomly selected from that pool. But we ended up with attrition rates above 50 percent. We had people who accepted a spot and then backed out. That was very frustrating and a waste of state resources.”

Grider said the new workshops not only confirmed participants’ commitments, they also reached a broader audience.

“With the AMH events, we could only accommodate a few people at a time,” he said. “With the one-day workshops, we can accommodate as many people as want to come. Last year, we had about 40 people at the workshop outside of Birmingham.”

Grider said new this year is an option to attend a species-specific workshop that focuses on deer or turkey.

“When we polled our participants in hunter education, 90 percent said they wanted to hunt either deer or turkey,” he said. “We created those Learn-to-Hunt workshops to satisfy that demand. With that, we cast a really big net to reach a lot of folks.”

The Hunting 101 workshop covers the basics on hunting safety and is geared to small game, like rabbit hunting, squirrel hunting and dove hunting.

“If you come to one of these Learn-to-Hunt workshops, we will obviously focus on the safety components of firearms and treestand safety, and then we will really drill down on the hunting of a specific species. If it’s turkey, we will go into the different turkey calls, the gear we use, patterning shotguns, how to find birds, setting up for a hunt, everything you need to know to hunt turkeys.

“With Hunting 101, you’ll have a chance to shoot a .22 and a shotgun. You’ll learn about what is good squirrel habitat or where you can find some rabbits. Then later in the day, you will have the opportunity to do a little small-game hunting or become familiar with the habitat.”

Either workshop meets the requirement to apply for the three-day AMH events. Grider also said people can come to as many of the workshops as they want.

“These are great opportunities to meet additional staff members, additional mentors and new hunters,” Grider said. “That’s the other component of the one-day workshops – it’s a great opportunity to socialize with other hunters, mentors and staff. And it’s not based on previous hunting experience. If you’ve been an avid deer hunter for 20 years and are interested in turkey hunting, come to that turkey workshop. It’s a great networking tool.”

Anyone interested in one of the workshops or an AMH event can visit www.outdooralabama.com/hunting/adult-mentored-hunting-program and use the interactive map to find a Hunting 101 or Learn-to-Hunt event.

Although there has been little mention of chronic wasting disease (CWD) during the COVID-19 outbreak, Sykes said WFF still needs the assistance of hunters to properly monitor the state’s deer herd.

“We still need people to help us collect samples,” he said. “Just because COVID hit, CWD didn’t miraculously go away. We’re still collecting samples. We’re still doing all of our surveillance. And we need people to participate. We installed those self-check freezers around the state for people to drop off samples. The response from the public was less than desirable. Just because we’re not talking about it every day like we have been for the past couple of years, CWD didn’t go anywhere. There’s still the threat. The numbers in Mississippi and Tennessee are still growing. We have to be diligent in doing our part so if it does hit, we can react swiftly.”

Locations of the self-service freezers are available at https://www.outdooralabama.com/cwd-sampling.

Sykes also wants to remind deer and turkey hunters about the changes to the possession regulation for the upcoming seasons.

Hunters who harvest deer and turkeys must maintain proper paperwork when transferring possession of that animal to a processor, taxidermist or any other individual.

According to WFF’s Law Enforcement Section, the recording and reporting requirements remain the same in Game Check. The update concerns possession of the game by someone other than the hunter.

Whoever is in possession of all or part of a deer or turkey that is not their own must retain written documentation with the name of the hunter, the hunter’s Conservation ID number, the date of the harvest and Game Check confirmation number. The information can be documented on a piece of paper, or a transfer of possession certificate is available in the Alabama Hunting & Fishing Digest or online at outdooralabama.com.

The documentation must be kept as long as that person is in possession of that deer or turkey. The hunter who harvests the deer or turkey is required to enter that animal into the Game Check system and maintain in his or her possession a valid confirmation number for that animal.

Hunters still have 48 hours to report the harvest through Game Check to attain a confirmation number. However, the game cannot be transferred to another individual until a valid Game Check confirmation number has been acquired.

The easiest way to comply with the requirements is to download the Outdoor AL smartphone app. The other is to go to outdooralabama.com and click on “Game Check.” For those who don’t have internet access, WFF has self-service kiosks at all district offices. The 1-800 number is no longer in effect. Visit www.outdooralabama.com/transfer-possession for more information.

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.

11 hours ago

Ivey tours battered Gulf Coast; Area officials say progress being made, ask for patience

MOBILE – Alabama Governor Kay Ivey toured via helicopter on Friday the parts of Alabama hit hardest by Hurricane Sally. She was accompanied at two different stops by several local officials who praised how the response had gone so far, but warned there was much work left to do.

The governor in public remarks called seeing the damage firsthand an “eye-opener,” saying the reality could not be properly conveyed by the news broadcasts she watched before traveling down on Friday.

“The damage is huge, our people are hurting,” she said of witnessing the destruction. “I’m sure it could be worse, but from what I’ve seen this morning in the flyover… it is really, really bad.”

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U.S. Representative Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope), who represents the hardest hit parts of the state, was praised by Ivey and several other officials for his work on the hurricane response at the federal level.

Byrne explained that large supplies of water and other necessary relief supplies had been stored by the federal government at an old Air Force base in Selma last week, out of the reach of the storm.

He added that the supplies were now being brought to the area as he spoke around noon on Friday.

Baldwin County bore the brunt of the damage inflicted on the state by Sally. As of 5:30 p.m. on Friday, over 100,000 households remained without electricity. “For Baldwin County this storm is worse than Hurricane Ivan,” said Byrne.

The congressman said he has met with officials at the White House and FEMA, and he said every relevant federal resource would be forthcoming.

As reported by Yellowhammer News earlier in the day, thousands of people from across the United States are pitching in to help restore power in Baldwin County.

Yellowhammer News, in traveling through Baldwin to get to the governor’s event, noted continued long lines at gas stations with many citizens filling up red gas cans once they got to the pump.

 

One of Baldwin County’s commissioners, Billie Jo Underwood, joined the governor during a briefing at Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores.

“I want to stress that we need to continue to have patience,” Underwood told the public, urging those listening to follow signs put up by law enforcement and other first responders, who are working around the clock.

Underwood concluded by saying, “We are strong here in Baldwin County, we are resilient.”

The commissioner’s comments echoed Byrne, who said that Baldwin would have a full recovery, “but it won’t happen real quick.”

The governor said on Friday that her main mission for the day was to listen to local leaders to so she could best coordinate the state and federal response.

“We’ve already heard we need ice and water and food,” said Ivey.

Yellowhammer News spotted one church that was giving out free ice and had a long line with many interested.

(Henry Thornton/YHN)

One Baldwin County resident told Yellowhammer they had been forced to throw out all of their perishable food items, a situation the individual presumed was common in the area.

Across the bay in Mobile County the situation was far less dire, apart from the town of Dauphin Island which experienced a similar treatment to its counterparts on the Eastern Shore.

Around 37,000 households in Mobile County do not have electricity as of 5:30 p.m. on Friday.

“I’m proud to report the government is working here in Mobile County,” said Commissioner Jerry Carl on Friday, adding, “I’m proud to say politics have been pushed aside.”

Carl is the Republican nominee for Alabama’s Second Congressional District but did not mention his campaign for higher office on Friday.

He joined Ivey, U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL), Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson and a cadre of other local officials at a briefing at Dauphin Island’s city hall.

Stimpson said he wanted to join his fellow local officials in “thanking Governor Ivey and Senator Jones for their work.”

“We know the things that need to be done… We will come up with solutions,” remarked Stimpson.

Carl told Yellowhammer News after the official briefing ended that “getting the trees out of the yard and the power on is 99% of getting back to normal after a storm.”

“We are all used to that… we are Alabama tough,” Carl said of his neighbors on the coast.

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

13 hours ago

University of Alabama System COVID-19 numbers continue to decline sharply — ‘You can be proud’

The University of Alabama System on Friday afternoon released its weekly update with COVID-19 related data from each of its three distinct institutions: the University of Alabama, the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH).

The data — covering the seven-day period from Friday, September 11, through Thursday, September 17 — was impressive for all three universities.

The University of Alabama saw another tremendous decline in the number of new cases week-over-week. This comes after the previous week showed a 65% decline in new cases compared to the week prior.

Only 119 students tested positive at UA in the latest period, compared to 294 positives the previous week.

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Another incredible sign at UA is the amount of quarantine/isolation rooms available on-campus. Only 3.88%% of these rooms are occupied (23/593).

Additionally, numbers at UAB and UAH continue to look good. In Birmingham, 18 students tested positive compared to 19 at UAH over the last week.

At UAB, only 2% of isolation rooms are being used (2/100 rooms); at UAH, that number is 26.4% (23/87 rooms).

Finally, sentinel testing of students, faculty and staff is ongoing System-wide, with less than 1% of individuals from this form of sample testing being positive. A release from the System advised this indicates a minimal rate of asymptomatic positive cases. System officials also explained this “demonstrates the effectiveness of the mitigation strategies that were imposed before the campuses reopened in August.”

Dr. Ricky Friend is dean of the College of Community Health Sciences at the University of Alabama and a member of the UA System Health and Safety Task Force.

“I am pleased to report that our number of daily cases, active cases and use of isolation and quarantine space have all dramatically declined,” Friend said in a Friday statement. “This is encouraging and reiterates that, when the health and safety precautions are followed, they work very well to contain and minimize cases across the UA campus and throughout the UA System.”

This week’s data comes seven days after Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, visited the University of Alabama for discussions with students, faculty and staff, as well as administrators and officials from the System and UA.

She effusively praised the System and university for their “strong leadership” and return-to-campus efforts as a whole, while urging everyone to continue following COVID-19 guidelines and orders.

RELATED: Birx: ‘Strong leadership’ from Univ. of Alabama System results in successful return-to-campus

At the latest UA System board of trustees meeting on Thursday, Chancellor Finis St. John confirmed the System’s Comprehensive Health and Safety Plan is working well.

“We faced worrisome trends on our campuses, but we were prepared. We addressed the issues as they arose and made informed decisions,” he outlined in the virtual meeting.

“We trusted our plan and our people, and everyone had the courage to see this through,” St. John added, thanking the trustees for setting the bar high to overcome historic challenges. “You can be proud of the innumerable people who have worked to execute your vision.”

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

14 hours ago

Former Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard’s attorneys ask for resentencing

Attorneys for former Alabama Speaker of the House Michael G. “Mike” Hubbard on Friday filed a motion for resentencing.

This comes seven days after Hubbard reported to the Lee County Sheriff’s Office to begin serving what is currently a four-year prison sentence. He is being held in Russell County and will eventually be turned over to the Alabama Department of Corrections.

Hubbard in 2016 was convicted on 12 of 23 ethics charges brought against him by the Alabama Attorney General’s Office.

One of those 12 convictions was reversed by the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals in August 2018. An additional five convictions were tossed by the Supreme Court of Alabama earlier this year.

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Although half of the original convictions have been tossed to-date, Hubbard still faces four years in prison, which was the original length of imprisonment imposed by the trial judge. Of the original charges brought against him, only 26% have stuck.

The new motion by Hubbard’s attorneys argues, “Give these changed circumstances and in the interest of justice, Hubbard respectfully requests that this Court resentence him…The convictions in this case alone have resulted in a wide range of punishments which include his removal from office, the loss of his right to vote, the divestment of his business interests, and his current incarceration.”

The motion further noted that Hubbard is not a danger to society. Hubbard’s counsel pointed to sentencing guidelines which state that “the sentence imposed in each case should call for the least restrictive sanction that is consistent with the protection of the public and the gravity of the crime.”

“Judges should be sensitive to the impact their sentences have on all components of the criminal justice system and should consider alternatives to long-term institutional confinement or incarceration in cases involving offenders whom the court deems to pose no serious danger to society,” counsel wrote.

“In short, from arrest to reentry into the community, a web of sanctions haunts defendants and their families,” the motion added. “An arrest and criminal charges alone can have a devastating impact. These hidden sanctions can have a more severe impact on the arrested or convicted, their children and their families than the immediate sentence.”

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

14 hours ago

NRA endorses six Republicans in Alabama’s U.S. House races

The National Rifle Association’s (NRA) political arm has released its grades and endorsements for candidates running for the United States House of Representatives, including incumbent members.

In Alabama, only the Seventh Congressional District did not see the NRA Political Victory Fund make an endorsement. This race only features U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell (AL-07), who received an “F” grade. No Republican qualified to run.

The NRA did make an endorsement in each of Alabama’s two open-seat races.

In Alabama’s First Congressional District, the NRA is backing Mobile County Commissioner Jerry Carl, the Republican nominee. Carl will face Democrat James Averhart, who received an “F” grade. The Republican received an “AQ” grade, the highest possible rating for someone who has never been a legislator or in another position that decides Second Amendment-related policies.

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Holders of an “AQ” grade are officially described as: “A pro-gun candidate whose rating is based solely on the candidate’s responses to the NRA-PVF Candidate Questionnaire and who does not have a voting record on Second Amendment issues.”

In the Second Congressional District, the NRA endorsed former State Rep. Barry Moore (R-Enterprise), who was awarded an “A” grade. Moore’s record in the Alabama House of Representatives was used along with the candidate questionnaire to formulate this grade. Democratic nominee Phyllis Harvey-Hall received an “F” grade.

“I appreciate being recognized for my support of the Second Amendment, but being recognized isn’t why I support our right to keep and bear arms,” Moore said in a statement. “I support our Second Amendment because it is the ultimate guarantee of our other freedoms. The Founders had to use firearms to free themselves from the tyranny of British rule, and they crafted the Second Amendment to make sure they could protect themselves from tyrants that might come later. They also recognized that firearms were essential to being able to defend one’s self, one’s family, and one’s property, and this is as true today as it was then.”

“I’ll continue to defend our Second Amendment, and all our other rights and freedoms, because I truly believe in them. I’m thankful for the NRA, for being an organized voice for millions of Second Amendment supporters, and I truly do appreciate their endorsement and giving me this ‘A’ rating,” he concluded.

The NRA also endorsed the incumbent Republican congressmen in the rest of the Yellowhammer State’s districts: U.S. Reps. Mike Rogers (AL-03), Robert Aderholt (AL-04), Mo Brooks (AL-05) and Gary Palmer (AL-06).

All of these members received an “A” grade besides Rogers, who scored an elusive “A+.”

RELATED: Tommy Tuberville lands highest possible NRA rating, Doug Jones gets a ‘D’

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