2 years ago

Rumors and Rumblings, 2nd Ed. Vol. VIII

“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.

1. Hey Arnold! State Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs) caused a bit of a stir this week when he introduced a request to censure State Rep. John Rogers (D-Birmingham) for comments Rogers made during the chamber’s debate of the abortion bill. Numerous GOP House members were upset by the move, not so much for the substance of the request as much as for the timing — and the perceived motivation behind it.

The request came as the body was attempting to address a “ten-minute” calendar of bills. The aim of a ten-minute calendar is to quickly dispose of some of the more mundane pieces of legislation with the idea being that each member gets ten minutes to pass their bill or else the House moves on to the next item. As soon as Mooney introduced his letter of censure, the environment in the chamber became hostile, resulting in an adjournment and the end of the calendar. Dozens of members lost the opportunity, at that point at least, to pass their individual pieces of legislation, including an anti-human trafficking bill and legislation to help feed needy children in the state.

Some members wondered why Mooney waited nine days to introduce his letter. His letter was dated May 13 and not introduced until May 22. This event came on the heels of Mooney previously sending out a campaign letter to supporters questioning the ideological bearings of his fellow Republican legislators. When asked if Mooney had expressed any of these concerns to the GOP caucus at-large prior to his candidacy for the U.S. Senate, one member responded, “No. He had not.”

2. A tale of two cities. As Mooney spent the week trying to burnish the type of outsider credentials attractive to Club for Growth, another one of his colleagues spent his week in D.C. trying, presumably, to lay a similar foundation. State Rep. Will Dismukes (R-Prattville) was boots on the ground in the nation’s capital this week. Dismukes has let it be known that he was contemplating his own run for the U.S. Senate. He has done a fair job of keeping those cards close to the vest, although his trip to Washington would lend to the notion that he continues to have interest in a federal office.

The mathematical side effect of Dismukes’ absence nearly reached a heightened level of consequence. Consideration of any legislation prior to the passage of both budgets requires a 3/5 vote of those in the body voting. The lottery failed this week because it did not receive the required 3/5 threshold of those voting. In Dismukes’ absence from the state, someone voted his machine on his behalf as an abstention rather than simply not voting at all. He was the only legislator to vote to abstain. This still raises the threshold of required votes.

There were 90 total members that voted — which means the lottery needed 54 votes to proceed. It only received 53. Had someone not voted Dismukes’ machine and 89 members had voted, the lottery would still have needed 54 votes but by a much slimmer margin since 3/5 of 89 equals 53.4. That’s how close the lottery came to advancing to full consideration by the House.

3. Is broadband really a priority for members of the Alabama House? While the state legislature’s budget negotiations have been relatively smooth so far this session, there is one major issue that has seemingly popped up at the last minute.

Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) and Senate Finance and Taxation Education Chairman Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) put $30 million in the Senate-passed Education Trust Fund Budget for the state’s rural broadband grant program established last year by State Senator Clay Scofield’s (R-Guntersville) landmark legislation.

As the legislature continues to work on beefing up last year’s legislation through Scofield’s SB 90 this year, the House is now seemingly set to slash the broadband funding approved by the Senate. The House Ways and Means Education Committee this week approved an education budget that cut the broadband funding by 73%, dragging the total down from $30 million to only $8 million.

Proponents of the larger number have said that there is not a better use of one-time money than to expand broadband services across the state. Will Chairman Bill Poole (R-Tuscaloosa) and the House at-large work with the Senate and restore the important broadband funding?

4. Art of the Deal. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) once again proved his master negotiating skills this week, securing a crucial disaster relief package deal against seemingly insurmountable differences between the increasingly polarized factions in Washington, D.C.

This package will provide much-needed aid to many in the Yellowhammer State, including those in southeast Alabama devastated by Hurricane Michael.

Shelby bridged the gap between Republicans and Democrats in Congress, while even managing to get President Donald Trump to drop his demands to include non-disaster related earmarks in the package — a concession that was key to getting enough votes in the Senate and House. The legislation quickly passed the Senate 85-8 Thursday before a lone House member objected to its unanimous passage on Friday. The House can take the legislation up after Memorial Day on Tuesday, when it is expected to overwhelmingly pass that chamber and then be signed into law.

One keen observer told Yellowhammer News that this type of achievement will not make nearly the number of headlines it should back at home, but once again Shelby has delivered for his state as he continues to cement his legacy as “Alabama’s greatest statesman.”

12 hours ago

Bill O’Brien hired as Crimson Tide offensive coordinator

University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban on Thursday evening announced the hire of Bill O’Brien as the Crimson Tide’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

O’Brien arrives in Tuscaloosa after six-plus years as the head coach of the NFL’s Houston Texans, where he compiled a 52-48 record that included four AFC South titles, four playoff appearances and two appearances in the AFC Divisional Round.

A release from Alabama Athletics noted that O’Brien’s offenses in Houston proved to be balanced and potent with the Texans ranking in the top-10 in the league in rushing yards, while quarterback Deshaun Watson threw for 4,165 yards in 2018 and 3,852 yards in 2019.

“We are pleased and happy to be able to add Bill O’Brien to our coaching staff,” Saban said in a statement. “He has a wealth of experience as both an offensive coordinator and head coach in the NFL and college. Bill is one of the brightest offensive minds in football, an outstanding teacher and excellent recruiter. He will strengthen our coaching staff and give our players the best possible chance to be successful.”

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O’Brien fills the vacancy left by Steve Sarkisian becoming the Texas Longhorns’ head coach.

“I am honored and excited to join Coach Saban’s staff at The University of Alabama,” O’Brien stated. “I have an incredible amount of admiration for the rich football tradition at this University and the success Coach Saban has had during his time in Tuscaloosa. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to work with some of the best football players in the country, while helping to continue the success this program has enjoyed for many years.”

Prior to joining the Texans, he took on one of the tallest tasks in college football history when he was named head coach at Penn State on January 6, 2012, succeeding Joe Paterno. O’Brien spent two years leading the Nittany Lions program, posting a 15-9 overall record and a 10-6 mark in the Big Ten. During that time, Penn State was under a four-season postseason ban and a loss of 40 scholarships due to the child sex abuse scandal that occurred during Paterno’s tenure.

O’Brien was named the Bear Bryant, Maxwell Football Club and ESPN National Coach of the Year after winning more games than any other first-year head coach in the program’s previous 125 seasons during the 2012 season.

Before his time at Penn State, O’Brien spent five years on Bill Belichick’s staff in New England, including calling offensive plays for three seasons and serving as the offensive coordinator in 2011. He coached in Super Bowls XLII and XLVI and was Tom Brady’s position coach during his 2010 MVP season.

All together, O’Brien boasts 28 years of collegiate and NFL coaching experience and was last a college offensive coordinator at Duke during the 2005-06 seasons. Prior to his time with the Blue Devils, O’Brien served as the running backs coach at Maryland (2004) after spending eight years at Georgia Tech in a myriad of roles, including graduate assistant, running backs, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks and assistant head coach (1995-2002). O’Brien started his career at Brown, coaching the tight ends in 1993 and the inside linebackers in 1994.

This came after O’Brien played linebacker and defensive end at Brown from 1990-92 and graduated with a double concentration in political science and organizational behavioral management. He and his wife, Colleen, have two sons, Jack and Michael.

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

13 hours ago

Auburn trustee, Mobile native Lloyd Austin granted congressional waiver, paving way for confirmation as defense secretary

U.S. Army General Lloyd J. Austin (Ret.) on Thursday was granted a waiver through votes by both chambers of Congress, allowing him to be confirmed as the next secretary of the Department of Defense.

The waiver for Austin, who retired from active duty in 2016, was required because federal law mandates that the Secretary of Defense either be a civilian or someone who has been retired from the military for seven or more years.

The House of Representatives bipartisanly voted 326-78 to grant the waiver; the Senate shortly thereafter voted 69-27 to do the same. All members of Alabama’s congressional delegation voted in favor of the waiver for Austin, who is a native of Mobile.

He also currently serves on the Auburn University board of trustees.

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U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell (AL-07) on Thursday morning had led a letter joined by fellow members of the Congressional Black Caucus urging her colleagues to support the waiver.

“I proudly support granting a waiver for Mobile, Alabama native and retired Four-Star General Lloyd Austin to serve as first Black Secretary of Defense,” Sewell said in a statement. “General Austin has an exemplary 41-year career of service and his battle-proven leadership and independence demonstrate he is the right choice to lead the Pentagon during these difficult times. We face many challenges as a nation, not least among them a historic pandemic that has disproportionately impacted communities of color and an unprecedented rise of white supremacist and far right-wing domestic terrorist groups. I’m confident in General Austin’s commitment and ability to course-correct and secure our nation from threats at home and abroad.”

U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers (AL-03), the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, also voiced his support for Austin, while raising process concerns. Rogers made his thoughts clear in remarks on the floor.

“I believe General Austin understands the threats we face,” the East Alabama congressman said, in part. “I believe he respects the principle of civilian control. I believe he will stand up to the efforts of many in the Democrat majority who seek to slash defense funding and rewrite our defense strategy.”

After a nearly 41-year decorated military career, Austin retired as a four-star general. Some of his former posts include service as the commander of U.S. Central Command, commander of the Combined Forces in Iraq and Syria, and as the 33rd vice chief of staff of the Army.

Austin is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and holds master’s degrees from Auburn and Webster University. He has received the Lifetime Achievement Award from Auburn, and his wife, Charlene, is also an Auburn graduate.

Additionally, the retired general currently serves on the board of directors for Raytheon Technologies and Nucor, both of which have significant Alabama presences.

He would be the first Black DoD secretary in American history. The Senate is expected to confirm him on Friday morning.

This comes after President Joe Biden last month announced his intent to nominate Austin to the important post.

U.S. Rep. Jerry Carl (AL-01), who represents Austin’s hometown, released a statement in support of the nominee on Thursday.

“Today I voted yes on the waiver for the Secretary of Defense Appointment of General Austin, even though I am frustrated with the House Democrats’ deeply flawed process. I believe General Austin is well-qualified to serve as our nation’s Secretary of Defense, and I am optimistic that he will push back against far-left attempts to cut military funding and weaken our nation’s defenses,” said Carl.

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

15 hours ago

We are about to watch Alabama’s 7th U.S. House seat become Mexico’s 1st

“America First,” is dead, and “Americans Last” is the new normal. As a result, Alabama is screwed.

No one expected now-President Joe Biden to follow the agenda of now-former President Donald Trump. He ran on being the exact opposite of him in every way.

But now that Biden is in office, the real consequences of those actions are going to be felt, and we are going to feel it right here in Alabama.

On his first day, Biden decided that “America First” would be put down behind the White House. But who knew the execution would be so swift?

Look at the actions Biden has taken so far:

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He immediately rejoined the World Health Organization. WHO is a notoriously corrupt puppet of China that knowingly made the coronavirus pandemic worse by helping the Chinese government conceal the origins and reality surrounding the global issue. Empowering them solely because Trump rejected them will hardly make America better. It will just force us to keep funding them.

The Paris climate accord sounds like a great idea. Who doesn’t want to make the world a better place? But does this do that? No. It holds America and countries like China, Pakistan and India to different standards. This will only incentivize companies to abandon America to avoid stronger regulations, helping China and other countries. What will this do? Increase pollution and harm America’s economy.

Now, let’s talk illegal immigration. We have a caravan headed to America from south of the border. It will not be the first because Biden and his handlers will let them in.

The Biden administration also decided to pause immigration-related removals from the United States on day one.

Biden has announced the building of the border wall will stop, even though it has cut down on human trafficking, drugs, arrests and illegal immigration.

The wall worked. Biden decided to stop building it — not to help Americans, but to help those who would enter illegally.

So what does this mean for Alabama? Barring some miraculous court order, we will lose a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall and U.S. Representative Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) have been fighting for more than three years to prevent illegal immigrants from being counted in for the allocation of U.S. House seats.

It is astonishing that a decision by an American president is made to intentionally take a seat away from states that have not been friendly to an overrun of our border and country by illegal immigrants.

There is no way to argue this puts Americans first in any possible way shape or form. This, by design, empowers foreign citizens and strips power away from Americans.

“America First” is dead; its execution was public and brutal. The media and their Democrats cheered its death.

“Americans Last” is the new normal, and Alabama is screwed.

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

18 hours ago

Manufacture Alabama launches Diversify initiative — ‘Creating a culture of inclusion and diversity from the highest ranks all the way down to the shop floor’

Manufacture Alabama, the trade association dedicated exclusively to the needs of Yellowhammer State manufacturers, on Thursday unveiled Diversify — an initiative to foster diversity and inclusion.

According to a release from the association, Diversify is committed to addressing multiple dimensions of human diversity, especially those that are linked to conditions resulting from prejudice and discrimination.

The initiative was established to provide resources and promote strategies to achieve a culture that values diversity as evidenced by attitudes, policies and practices within Alabama manufacturing facilities and beyond.

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“Diversify addresses one of the most important challenges that the manufacturing industry must address – creating a culture of inclusion and diversity from the highest ranks all the way down to the shop floor,” stated George Clark, president of Manufacture Alabama. “Manufacture Alabama is committed to the progress of diversity and inclusion through this important initiative. Promoting a diverse culture of inclusivity is crucial to the ongoing success of the association and to the success of our manufacturers.”

Diversify will be led by a council consisting of state industry leaders with diverse backgrounds who have a passion for sustaining an inclusive environment within their companies and communities.

The council membership includes the following:

• State Rep. Napoleon Bracy, Jr., Manager, Diversity & Inclusion, AUSTAL USA
• Quentin P. Riggins, Senior Vice President Governmental and Corporate Affairs, Alabama Power Company
• Angela Hunt, Organizational Development Manager, Hunt Refining Company
• Richard Lehr, Shareholder, Lehr Middlebrooks Vreeland & Thompson, P.C.
• LaShaunda Holly, Communications and Workforce Development Manager, BASF
• Ashlen Loban, Administrative Coordinator, Manufacture Alabama

Riggins commented in a statement, “I’m honored to work with partners committed to the hard work of finding solutions which promote unity, fairness and acceptance of all people in the manufacturing industry.”

“No matter what company or industry we represent, we all have a responsibility to foster an inclusive culture and embrace diversity in order to build a better Alabama,” he added.

Manufacture Alabama represents some of Alabama’s largest employers.

“The Diversify council is made up of an impressive and diverse group of leaders who have pledged to put visions into action and are committed to the growth of Diversify,” concluded Clark. “The contributions of this council will benefit manufacturers throughout the state and beyond.”

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

18 hours ago

Business Council of Alabama announces three promotions following departure of Molly Cagle to Shipt

The Business Council of Alabama (BCA) on Wednesday announced the promotion of three employees: Helena Duncan has been named senior vice president of operations and investor relations; Susan Carothers will serve as the vice president of investor relations; and Drew Harrell has been promoted to vice president of governmental affairs.

The moves follow the departure of Molly Cagle, who recently accepted the position of senior director of government and public affairs at Birmingham-based Shipt.

“Molly has been an instrumental piece to the BCA puzzle and a key player in the success of BCA,” stated Katie Boyd Britt, BCA president and CEO. “While we will certainly miss having her a part of the team, I could not be prouder for Molly. I am excited to see the many ways she continues to excel in her new role at Shipt.”

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Harrell will be directly stepping into the existing role left vacant by Cagle’s move, while Duncan and Carothers were promoted into new positions.

“Helena, Susan, and Drew have played an instrumental role in the success of BCA, bringing a wealth of knowledge in their respective areas of expertise,” Britt remarked. “I am thrilled to promote each of them into a new leadership role, and I look forward to watching them lead and grow their departments, along with our organization. These talented individuals are a part of a highly skilled team who will continue to work each day to ensure that Alabama is a great place to live, work and do business.”

Duncan joined BCA 12 months ago as the director of strategic operations and growth. Since joining the team, she has worked diligently to build and grow relationships with new and current members. Her work has reportedly resulted in numerous wins for BCA and built strong partnerships within the business community. Prior to joining BCA, Helena spent over 30 years working in the financial industry, primarily at the executive management level.

In her new role as senior vice president of operations and investor relations, Duncan will continue to oversee membership, finance and human resources, but will also assume leadership of investor relations, communications, marketing and events.

“Working for BCA has been the most rewarding experience,” said Duncan. “We are consistently laser focused on serving the businesses of Alabama at the highest level. Although we faced unprecedented times in 2020, our commitment never wavered and our focus never changed. I’m extremely proud to work for this organization and serve the businesses of Alabama.”

Carothers has been a part of BCA since 2005, when she joined the organization as manager of events and special projects. During her tenure, she has been a jack of all trades, managing numerous special projects while also planning and executing all major BCA events. In 2012, Carothers transitioned from a full-time BCA team member to launch her company, SC Events Management. She still remained on contract as the leading event planner for BCA, a role she held until December.

As vice president of investor relations, she will continue to oversee events, but will also oversee communications and marketing.

“BCA has been my home for more than 15 years,” commented Carothers. “We have never had a greater opportunity than now to make a positive and lasting impact for Alabama businesses. I’m excited to get to work in this new role.”

Harrell came to BCA in 2011 as executive assistant to the president and later was given expanded duties as executive assistant and strategic operations coordinator. His most recent role has been the director of governmental and regulatory affairs, in which he also serves as executive director of the Alliance for Alabama’s Infrastructure. Throughout his career with BCA, he has played an instrumental role in crafting and implementing BCA’s legislative agenda at both the state and federal level.

In his new role as vice president of governmental affairs, Harrell will continue his work in the legislative arena, advocating for BCA members in Montgomery and Washington, D.C.

“Being a part of this BCA team and seeing firsthand the value this organization brings to its members, as well as to our state, has been a true blessing,” said Harrell. “I am extremely honored and humbled by this opportunity to serve this great organization in this capacity, and I look forward to building on its successes through collective efforts with our BCA members.”

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