2 months ago

Senate passes bill allowing alcohol delivery to Alabama homes; House vote away from governor’s desk

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama Senate on Thursday passed SB 126 as amended, moving the measure one step away from the governor’s desk.

The bill would allow the delivery of sealed beer, wine and liquor from grocery stores, restaurants, and other licensed retailers to residences across the Yellowhammer State.

HB 229, the companion bill to SB 126, advanced from the House Judiciary Committee as amended on Wednesday, leaving a House floor vote as the only remaining hurdle to final passage by the legislature.

The legislation is sponsored by Senator Jabo Waggoner (R-Vestavia) and Representative Gil Isbell (R-Gadsden) in their respective chambers.

An amendment tacked onto each version of the bill increases the amount of alcohol allowed per delivery; another amendment requires a criminal background check to be conducted on licensees’ delivery drivers.

Overall, the bill features tight regulatory safeguards.

“Our legislation allows for alcohol delivery with strict, multiple layers of checks and balances in place. The legislation explicitly regulates that alcohol deliveries are made only to adults of legal drinking age,” Waggoner has said in a statement.

Isbell added, “Passing common sense rules for safe alcohol delivery in Alabama is smart all around – giving more options to consumers relying on delivery services while providing a boost to delivery workers and local retail businesses during a pivotal time. It’s time to pass legislation that responsibly gives consumers in Alabama the option for delivery of beer, wine, and spirits, just as states across the country have done.”

The Senate vote was 25-4 on Thursday, the sixth day of the legislature’s 2021 regular session. The House could consider HB 229 on the floor as soon as Tuesday, February 23.

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

3 hours ago

Bryant Bank scholarships ease path for UAH nurses to emergency room, ICU roles

Bryant Bank’s Excellence in Nursing Scholarships helped pave the way for December 2020 Nursing graduates to develop the skills necessary to take up roles in the emergency room and trauma ICU, reports The University of Alabama in Huntsville College of Nursing (UAH CON), a part of The University of Alabama System.

The Bryant Bank Excellence in Nursing Scholarship was established in 2015 to award in-state students admitted to the Early Promotion into the UAH Nursing Program (EPNP). The EPNP is an honors program being offered by UAH’s College of Nursing. Highly qualified students who enter UAH as freshmen declaring nursing as their major, and taking all of the lower division nursing coursework on the UAH campus, are guaranteed a slot in upper division nursing courses.

Not only is the program a timely one, aiding students entering the profession during the COVID-19 pandemic, the scholarship is renewable. A full-time course load (12 hours) must be maintained each semester with a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.25 on all lower division Nursing and Charger Foundation-required courses given in the BSN lower division program of study.

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One of those scholarship recipients is UAH CON cohort Rachel Collins, who reflects on how she arrived at her decision to enter the nursing field.

“The dream to become a nurse is something that came to me later in life. I always knew I had an interest in science and learning about the human body, but I wasn’t sure how I wanted to fuel that interest. I was recruited to play collegiate soccer at The University of Alabama in Huntsville and heard of UAH’s incredible nursing program, and decided nursing was the route I wanted to take. With each semester that passed, I gained a stronger understanding and love for the nursing profession.”

For fellow 2020 graduate Katarina “Katy” Ahmed, the same choice represented more of a lifelong dream.

“The first recollections I have of planning to do nursing was at four years old,” she says. “I knew I was going to be just like my mom. I distinctly remember how she taught me how to properly clean and bandage wounds. In my last semester of nursing school, I grew into the nurse I wanted to be. I had knowledge behind me, but the experience gained from precepting helped me put my knowledge to the test. My desire for direct patient care was solidified as I helped care for my grandmother as she slowly passed away from ovarian cancer. I got to serve her in a tangible way and witness the Hospice Family Care nurses show me how much care families should be treated with during one of the hardest times of life. If I can be even half as comforting, loving and passionate about my patients and families as those nurses, I will have accomplished my desire in this field.”

Cohort Laura Bowman reveals that her own journey had striking parallels to Ahmed’s, but reports her personal path was unique as well.

“As a child, I was extraordinarily squeamish,” she says. “I got very grossed out by the sight of blood and could not stand anything medically related! I always said I would never have what it takes to be a nurse. However, my grandmother began having a series of strokes when I was a young teenager, and over the next few years I helped care for her. The longer I cared for her, the more I adapted to blood and other bodily fluids. The week before she died she called me her ‘little nurse.’ That statement really stuck with me. It opened my eyes to the fact that I do have what it takes to be a nurse and inspired me to pursue that passion.”

When it came to furthering her education, Collins recalls, “I was looking for a university that wasn’t only going to help me achieve my goals in my soccer career, but would also push me academically and give me a great education. As soon as I visited UAH, I knew it was the perfect college for me. I was able to be a student athlete while simultaneously getting an incredible nursing education. I loved the campus, and I loved the city of Huntsville.”

It was a family connection to the school that helped Ahmed make her selection.

“I heard a lot about the program growing up, since my mom is an alumna of the UAH College of Nursing,” she notes. “Although I considered other universities, UAH remained my top choice. Not only did UAH allow me to live at home through college, but I was able to stay with my home church and remain with my closest friends. I was also able to stay out of debt throughout my collegiate career, because UAH offered me the Charger Distinction Scholarship and the Bryant Bank Scholarship. My spot in the Upper Division Program in the CON was solidified as I was offered and accepted the Early Promotion into UAH Nursing Program.”

Bowman was blessed with a similar familial connection that helped her narrow her choice as well.

“My dad is actually a UAH alumnus. I grew up in Huntsville and always heard about how amazing the UAH College of Nursing is. Between that and the scholarships UAH offers, it was a no-brainer for me to attend the UAH College of Nursing. UAH Nursing has prepared me to critically think in the real world. Real life patients are so different than textbook ones! However, UAH gave me the building blocks to translate textbook knowledge into real-world applications.”

The graduates are especially grateful to the Bryant Bank Scholarship and the profound impact it had on their lives and being admitted into the Early Promotion into UAH Nursing Program.

“It meant the world to me!” Collins says. “It really instilled in me the confidence to know that people believed in me. It helped me to study hard and push for the highest academic excellence I could pursue. The scholarship also meant I could graduate without any student debt! Receiving the Bryant Bank Scholarship and being admitted into the Early Promotion into UAH Nursing Program further validated that I was going to be part of such a special profession that is valued and appreciated by so many people. Knowing I had this support gave me confidence to go fearlessly into the nursing profession.”

Ahmed wholeheartedly agrees. “The Charger Distinction Scholarship, Bryant Bank Scholarship and the Early Promotion into UAH Nursing Program were, above all, an answer to prayer! All the perseverance and tears in high school paid off, and those three opportunities allowed me to go to UAH without the fear of going into debt. The Bryant Bank Scholarship meant a lot, because it is specifically for nursing students and was an incredible asset to earning my degree. People outside of my family and friends were actively investing in me and my studies! The EPNP allowed my mind to be at peace, knowing that I had a place in the Upper Division Program. These three incredible blessings were affirmations that determination, perseverance and a strong work ethic pays off with high rewards later down the road.”

All three nurses feel the rigorous UAH Nursing academic program has prepared them well for the work they are doing now.

“UAH Nursing pushed me to a limit academically that I couldn’t have ever imagined,” Collins says. “While it was difficult, I came out of it knowing I was going to be able to add something special to the nursing profession. UAH Nursing empowered me to be a lifelong learner and to always question the status quo. While I knew it would be a challenge coming out of nursing school and going straight into the intensity of the Pediatric ICU, I never doubted I had the knowledge and capability to someday excel in such a challenging unit.”

“I feel like I thought nursing would be much more straightforward as a student,” Bowman says. “The emergency room is a very stressful and fast-paced environment. You can fall behind so easily if you do not have good time management skills. You have to adapt quickly to changing situations. You also have to use interpersonal communication skills to interact effectively with both patients and providers. I love the fast paced environment, even though I was not anticipating it being quite as hectic as it actually is.”

“I feel the UAH CON fulfilled its objective in giving me a solid base to build on in my chosen specialty,” Ahmed adds. “Overall, nursing school requires scheduling and prioritization. These skills are applicable in the nursing profession as well, as nurses must ensure all aspects of patient care are done appropriately and in a timely manner. Classroom changes due to COVID-19 taught me flexibility, which is also applicable to nursing. I must credit and thank Dr. Anna Aultman and Dr. Sharon Coffey, who instructed me in the Critical Care course. Daily I recall the information, advice and critical thinking skills they persistently pushed during each lecture. I would also be remiss if I breezed over the Pathophysiology and Pharmacology courses. I use all of that information now to help process complex disease processes and medication effects.”

Collins is working in the Pediatric ICU at Children’s of Alabama in Birmingham, and admits that her first days on the job were challenging.

“Starting off, orientation in the Pediatric ICU initially intimidated me because I knew the expectations would be higher for me as a licensed RN compared to when I was a student,” she says. “However, I quickly learned that it’s okay to admit you are unsure how to do something, even as an RN. Most everyone is willing to teach you new things and walk you through unfamiliar procedures. One difference I’ve noticed is the expectation to manage my time. I’ve had to learn quickly how to manage hourly assessments, charting and giving meds simultaneously. I have loved my time so far working in the Pediatric ICU. I love the challenge of caring for such critically ill patients and getting the opportunity to critically think every shift I work.”

Ahmed, on the other hand, found her start at Huntsville Hospital in the Surgical Trauma Intensive Care Unit (STICU).

“As a new hire, I tried to go in with an open mind, ready to learn a specific patient population, new skills and drastically increase my understanding of complex patients and critical thinking,” she says. “I expected the unit to be a challenging environment to begin in, and it has not yet disappointed. However, I have been extremely welcomed. I truly enjoy the unit, my coworkers and what I get to do each day. Every nurse has been willing to help me and explain procedures and patients’ situations so I will have a deeper understanding of critical thinking and patient care. This information is building on the foundation that I received while at UAH, especially in the Critical Care course.”

As for what it is like to go into their first nursing jobs in the middle of a pandemic, the recent grads stress their understanding of what this commitment really means during a time of so much uncertainty.

“It is honestly extraordinarily stressful,” Bowman admits. “Walking into an environment where everyone is already exhausted can be discouraging. However, I am glad we are able to provide some relief to those who are already so overworked. As nurses, we care for patients equally, regardless of their diagnosis. So, COVID patient or not, they all receive the same quality of care. I am glad to be able to provide that care. Hopefully, this will all be behind us sometime soon.”

Collins chimes in: “It’s a difficult and simultaneously rewarding time to be a part of the healthcare field. Limiting visitors, especially in a pediatric unit, is hard on the families and the kids we care for. While it’s a hard time emotionally and financially for many people, I am empowered to know that I get to be in a profession that is making a difference throughout this pandemic.”

“COVID-19 has affected every career in some form or fashion, but especially the healthcare field,” Ahmed points out. “Although those in the medical and nursing professions have made a vow along the way to help those under their care regardless of the diagnosis, COVID-19 has been an incredible hurdle that everyone is still dealing with every day. Although I love the unit and my job, it can be scary to go into work! I have been exposed to COVID-19, and even with all of the precautions in place, will most likely be again.”

Then, after a pause to reflect, the young graduate goes on:

“But, from four years old to now, my dream has never changed! I made it through an incredibly rigorous nursing school. Through all of my education, I have also been learning the skills, both physical and emotional, to be the best nurse I can be. Starting a career in nursing during a pandemic was nothing I ever expected could happen. Sometimes I am scared and overwhelmed, but ultimately I have peace of mind. I know I was put into this role for a reason. This career is not easy, but in the end when I go home, I know that I did everything I could for my patients. I am thankful to UAH and my professors who taught me more than what can be found in a textbook. They lead by example, and I hope one day I can be an example for the next generation of nurses.”

Bryant Bank was founded on the belief that Alabama needs a bank that is focused on the needs of Alabamians. It was granted a charter by the State of Alabama Banking Department in 2005, and the company maintains 16 branches in Alabama, including two in Huntsville. The first Huntsville branch opened in 2007. For more information about the Bryant Bank Excellence in Nursing Scholarship Program, visit here.

(Courtesy of UAH)

4 hours ago

VIDEO: Gambling overcomes first big hurdle by passing the Alabama State Senate, Johnson & Johnson vaccine delay could create doubt, Amazon workers beat back union attempt and more on Alabama Politics This Week …

Radio talk show host Dale Jackson and political consultant Mecca Musick take you through Alabama’s biggest political stories, including:

— Is gambling closer to passing the legislature than it has been in quite some time?

— Was Alabama right to pause the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine?

— What is up with all of the excuses from the pro-union advocates after the Amazon workers in Bessemer rejected their advances?

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Jackson and Musick are joined by FM Talk 106.5 in Mobile’s Jeff Poor to discuss the issues facing the state of Alabama this week.

Jackson closes the show with a “Parting Shot” directed at those who refuse to talk about the one common denominator in every police shootings: the failure to comply.

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 AM weekdays on WVNN and on Talk 99.5 from 10AM to noon.

6 hours ago

Alabama’s Bevill State HVAC Fast Track Program graduates students

Bevill State Community College recently hosted a commencement ceremony for graduates of its spring 2021 HVAC Fast Track Program.

Eight students completed the 11-week program preparing them for successful careers as HVAC technicians.

Spring 2021 graduates are:

  • Jeffery Adair, Haleyville.
  • Blake Carroll, Quinton.
  • Joshua Cook, Birmingham.
  • Cedric Davis, Pike Road.
  • Eddie Kirkland, Pinson.
  • Cheyenne Moore, Maylene.
  • Carter Moorer, Hayden.
  • Quilin Tarrance, Adamsville.
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The HVAC Fast Track Program is a partnership between Alabama Power and Bevill State to help address an emerging workforce need. The HVACR Workforce Foundation cites a shortage in the U.S. of more than 170,000 technicians skilled at installing, servicing and repairing heating, central air conditioning, HVAC and refrigeration systems.

“We’re proud to work alongside Bevill State, as well as other local colleges and universities, to provide students the necessary training to have meaningful careers in skilled trades,” said Jeff Peoples, Alabama Power executive vice president of Customer and Employee Services. “By working together on these workforce investments, we’re creating opportunities in Alabama communities and addressing emerging industry needs.”

Through the program, students receive training in a state-of-the-art facility in Jasper and learn diagnostic techniques, use of testing equipment and principles of mechanics, electricity and electronics related to repair. Students who complete the program earn Bevill State and EPA Section 608 Refrigerant certifications, preparing them to take the State of Alabama HVACR Contractors Exam.

“As a U.S. Navy veteran and someone who has bounced around at different jobs, the HVAC program provided me an opportunity for a career,” said graduate Kirkland.

“My family financial situation did not afford me access to the typical community college program. Through this partnership between Alabama Power and Bevill State, I was able to get a scholarship and complete the program. Now my future looks bright,” Kirkland said.

In addition, graduates have the opportunity to interview with prospective employers at the completion of the program. Previous program graduates have joined the workforce and the response from hiring companies has been favorable.

The application window has closed for the summer 2021 class and selections are underway.

Applications will open this August for the spring 2022 class. Enrollment is open to high school graduates or people earning GED diplomas, age 18 and older. The program has limited seating and scholarships are available.

Click here to learn more or contact Wendy Jenkins at 1-800-648-3271, ext. 5713 or wendy.jenkins@bscc.edu.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

7 hours ago

Frontier Leadership panel features Economic Development Partnership of Alabama chief

Creating a culture that spurs innovation and lays the foundation for success will help leaders survive and thrive in a hyper-competitive landscape, Greg Barker, president of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama (EDPA), said recently.

Innovation is a must, not an option, in this era of rapid change across industrial sectors, Barker said during a Frontier Conference virtual session facilitated by Whitney Wright, co-chair of Athena Collective. Change is being propelled by transformative technologies, including data analytics, artificial intelligence, the internet of things and smart manufacturing solutions, Barker said. Business leaders are under pressure to adapt and adjust.

Barker was named president of the EDPA in June 2020. He has been involved in economic development for more than 30 years, with 20 of those years serving at Alabama Power.

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Barker is optimistic about 2021 and, based on his conversations with business leaders in Alabama, he’s not the only one with a positive economic outlook. Barker said workers are becoming accustomed to virtual meetings and adapting their workday to the ever-changing environment.

The National Association of Manufacturers recently released its quarterly survey results saying manufacturers were more positive in the first quarter of 2021 than they were in any quarter since the beginning of 2019.

Barker pointed to successes in Alabama that bode well for the state. He said the legislation to renew incentives that passed early in the current session of the Alabama Legislature is a big positive.

Also, Gov. Kay Ivey established the Alabama Innovation Commission late last year, with state Rep. Bill Poole serving as chair of Innovate Alabama and Sen. Greg Reed serving as vice chair, overseeing the commission’s 15 members.

“They are coming up with great ideas to innovate and support companies,” said Barker. “These leaders have worked together to develop strategies on how Alabama can see more growth and a better quality of life.”

On the national level, Barker said investment is needed in infrastructure nationwide: roads, water, sewer, fiber and broadband. These investments create job opportunities and provide critical infrastructure that businesses need to be successful. Federal matching money is “incredibly helpful” in developing infrastructure to sustain success on the state level, Barker said.

In addition to the policy and tactical growth that drive and facilitate innovation in businesses, culture and leadership are also important to make sure innovation is part of every business.

“We’ve all heard the saying that culture eats strategy for breakfast,” said Barker. “If you don’t have the right kind of culture and mindset, it’s going to be really hard to implement your strategies. Your culture has to perpetuate or you’re not going to be successful.”

Diversity and inclusion are right to do from a human perspective, Barker said, but they are also right to do for a business to be successful.

“It doesn’t stop there. At EDPA, we observe how emerging companies do business with big companies,” Barker said. “In Alabama and all over the nation, we can do a better job of finding these fits. These emerging companies are developing solutions that could be helpful with some of the big issues facing big companies. We’re trying to do a better job of engaging smaller companies with big companies. It has to start at the top and work its way down.”

Sales between big and small companies are two examples of where culture and risk collide, Barker said. There are many successful incubators around Alabama that have proved successful.

“We need great talent to bring new business to Alabama,” Barker said. “We’re making robust investments in fiber infrastructure and broadband, products they need to be gainfully employed. It’s the single most important thing. It’s also about quality of life; there are great restaurants, the outdoors, quick access to sandy beaches, mountains, streams, lakes, and our cost of living is significantly lower.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

9 hours ago

Bonnie Plants plans greenhouse projects, e-commerce upgrades in Alabama

UNION SPRINGS, Alabama — Bonnie Plants, the nation’s largest grower of vegetable and herb plants for home gardens, announced plans today to upgrade and expand its greenhouse facilities in Bullock County with a multimillion-dollar project that will improve production and strengthen its e-commerce operations.

“This new operation will be one of the most state-of-the-art facilities within Bonnie’s network of over 300 acres of greenhouses nationwide,” said Mike Sutterer, president and CEO of Bonnie Plants.

“When completed, this project will expand our growing and distribution space in Union Springs by more than 30 percent while improving how we grow and distribute vegetables and herbs as well as our new growth segments of flowers, succulents and houseplants.”

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The expansion in Union Springs includes seven acres of open-roof, natural-ventilation greenhouses, which provide a variety of benefits compared to traditional fan and shutter greenhouses, including better temperature and humidity control, energy savings and reduced need for irrigation — plus an additional four acres of outdoor growing area.

There will also be a 7,800-square-foot production line and 45,900-square-foot e-commerce distribution warehouse at each end of the greenhouses. Including potting, finish growth and distribution in one central facility will create better, sturdier plants by reducing handling time and variations in temperature and climate as the plants are moved through the facility, improving plant quality for consumers.

The expansion project will create an estimated 60 jobs at the Bullock County site.
The upgrade will also allow Bonnie to strengthen direct fulfillment for its ever-expanding e-commerce division.

This expansion project began as a way to support the surging demand following a 450 percent increase in e-commerce sales in 2020 and another increase of at least 400 percent planned for 2021.

“E-commerce has been one of the fastest-growing channels for Bonnie Plants for the past several years,” said Sidney Phelps, director of E-commerce for Bonnie Plants. “As consumers are buying more things online, they’re even choosing to have plants for their gardens delivered directly to their homes.

“This new expansion allows us to offer a best-in-class experience for distribution while keeping the overall plant health at the highest quality.”

GROWTH PLANS

In conjunction with the increased investment in Union Springs, last year Bonnie announced it was relocating certain headquarters positions to a new state-of-the-art building in Opelika with the goal of leveraging the location, building and amenities to help Bonnie’s employee recruiting and retention efforts.

A groundbreaking ceremony for the new building was last August, and construction is scheduled to be completed late Fall 2021.

“We’re proud that the new greenhouse facilities will not only create expansion for our products and operations, but for employment in Bullock County as well,” Sutterer said “Union Springs has been an integral part of Bonnie’s history for more than 100 years and that isn’t changing.

“We’re excited that we’ll be able to continue our commitment to this community by adding more associates to the Bonnie family through this expansion.”

Construction on the expansion in Union Springs began in December 2020 and is expected to be completed this Fall.

Brenda Tuck, rural development manager for the Alabama Department of Commerce, said Bonnie Plant’s growth project will have a major economic impact on Bullock County, where the company was founded in 1918.

“It is so exciting to see Bonnie Plants, with more than a century of history in Bullock County, continuing to grow and expand with the changing culture. Their foresight and ability to adapt to the conditions and restraints we all found ourselves in through the pandemic is exceptional as they worked to meet the needs of people throughout their service area,” she said. “They are a testament to the strength and long-standing economic successes of Bullock County.

“It’s always a pleasure to work with David Padgett at the Bullock County Development Authority as he assists companies through growth and expansion opportunities,” Tuck added.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)