1 year ago

State Sen. Elliott on new Mobile Bay Bridge funding: Shelby hamstrung by changes in earmarking, Federal money not as readily available

The funding for the new Interstate 10 Mobile Bayway Bridge remains the hottest political topic in Southwest Alabama as residents continue to grapple with a century-old problem of perfecting the best way to get back and forth from Mobile to Baldwin County’s Eastern Shore.

Currently, the Alabama Department of Transportation appears to be set on allowing for a toll for the new bridge, which reportedly could cost as much as $6 each way per automobile. That has drawn the ire of local residents, especially on the heels of a move by the Alabama legislature to hike the state’s gasoline tax. It has also raised questions about the local congressional delegation and the Alabama Department of Transportation, and the perceived inability to secure federal money, which supposedly could be used in place of a toll.

During an appearance on Mobile radio’s FM Talk 106.5, Sen. Chris Elliott (R-Daphne) explained why federal money is not as readily available as it once might have been and how the project got to the point of requiring a so-called public-private partnership (P3), which he argued is now the norm for projects of this magnitude.

“The simple answer to that is this is a very, very large project,” Elliott said on Monday’s broadcast of “Midday Mobile.” “When you start talking about $2.1 to $2.3 billion, this is a project that’s the largest of its kind, really in the Southeast, and one of the largest public infrastructure projects nationally. There are other on FHWA and USDOT’s [Federal Highway Administration and U.S. Department of Transportation] website that you can look through, many of which are private-public partnerships – these P3s we’re talking about right now. But that is the shift the federal government has made on how to fund major infrastructure projects like this – these public-private partnerships, and that’s really how we’ve ended up here.”

As for federal funding, or the lack thereof, Elliott told host Sean Sullivan given the end of the practice of earmarking by Congress, U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby’s (R-Tuscaloosa) ability as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee is limited in steering federal money to Alabama for the project.

“Things have changed from the federal government’s standpoint,” Elliott said. “It really started when we quit doing earmarks. Remember earmarks in the federal government, and the powerful senator and the powerful congressman got the stuff in his district. And for what it’s worth – whether you like earmarks or not, I think everybody would agree that in Alabama, we really missed our timing on that because we got Senator Shelby as the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, the Senate Appropriations Committee, arguably the third or fourth-most powerful man in the world, in the country. And that’s where we missed the boat. If earmarks were still around and Shelby is in this position, I don’t think that we would be having this conversation. And so the good fiscal conservatives that we are, and most of us are here in South Alabama, don’t like earmarks and we’re applauding when the federal government got rid of them. And it was probably a good thing given the deficit and the debt that our federal government has. But, that’s where we missed out here in South Alabama – is we didn’t have Shelby in the right spot when the earmarks were there. “

“Senator Shelby has been very effective at bringing dollars back to Alabama, and other congressmen and senators have as well,” he added. “But Shelby has been particularly adept at it. And he has continued to do that and will continue to do with the port widening. But to talk to Senator Shelby and to talk to his office, it’s one thing to find $100 million, or $200 million, or even $500 million that we’re matching here at the local government level. But $2.1 billion is a whole different animal. And that is not something that is not something Senator Shelby is able to wave his wand and make happen, unfortunately.”

The Baldwin County Republican state senator indicated that the bridge’s details are still being determined, which will have an impact on funding and the amount of a possible future toll.

@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.

9 hours ago

Alabama Power sends hundreds of linemen, support personnel to assist after Tropical Storm Isaias hammered East Coast

Tropical Storm Isaias hit the eastern coast of the United States hard this week, leaving millions of Americans without power while producing high winds, heavy rain and tornadoes.

In the wake of the storm’s wrath, Alabama Power Company on Wednesday morning sent 133 lineworkers and 94 support personnel to New Jersey to assist utility FirstEnergy in its storm response.

A release from the company outlined that Alabama Power upon arrival will support FirstEnergy subsidiary Jersey Central Power and Light, which serves 1.1 million customers in the central and northern parts of the Garden State.

In addition to directly supporting FirstEnergy, Alabama Power advised that it released more than 325 contract lineworkers to assist in storm restoration at various other utilities along the East Coast.

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“Our crews are prepped and ready to offer assistance in the restoration efforts following Tropical Storm Isaias,” stated Kristie Barton, Alabama Power Company’s power delivery services general manager.

“As soon as it is safe to do so, which includes observing all of our COVID-19 safe practices protocol, we’ll be working to restore power as quickly as possible,” she continued.

The company’s help was reportedly coordinated through the mutual assistance program of the Southeastern Electric Exchange, a trade association comprised of several member utilities.

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

9 hours ago

Ivey named to leadership of National Governors Association

The National Governors Association (NGA) on Wednesday announced its new executive committee for 2020-2021, with Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) becoming chair of the association that represents the 55 leaders of all American states and territories.

Members of the executive committee were elected during the NGA summer meeting, which was held in a virtual format this year.

Governor Kay Ivey (R-AL) was one of the governors elected to the nine-member executive committee.

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“I’m honored to have been elected to serve on the [NGA] Executive Committee for 2020-21,” Ivey said in a Wednesday tweet. “I look forward to working with my fellow governors to develop initiatives & policies to support our country now & in the future.”

The NGA recently highlighted Alabama’s workforce development efforts under the Ivey administration as a model for other states to emulate.

Ivey assumed the governor’s office on April 10, 2017. In November 2018, she was elected to her first full term as Alabama’s chief executive. That term will expire in January 2023. Ivey could seek reelection in 2022.

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

10 hours ago

Mo Brooks: Democrats are banking on creating more moochers in 2020

The latest stimulus bill in Congress is tied up for many reasons, but a major sticking point appears to be the continuation of a $600 a week unemployment booster on top of what states already pay in benefits.

With the current impasse, there is currently no bonus to be given to those who are unemployed.

This is creating a battle between those who want to keep the bonus payment going for the foreseeable future and those who believe that the high payment is keeping people from vigorously re-entering the job market.

The stalemate in Washington, D.C. will eventually break. Some form of sweetener will be included, and the battle for stimulus will move on to the next bill.

U.S. Representative Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) views this battle as part of the larger ideological battle in the United States.

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Brooks appeared on WVNN’s “The Dale Jackson Show” on Wednesday and referred to the Democratic Party as “the moocher party.” He said he believes this disconnect all started in the 1960s when Democrats embraced the idea of the “Great Society.”

Brooks opined, “Democrats have discovered that’s a huge voting block that they get in elections, so one way to win an election is to turn more independent, self-reliant voters into moochers.”

The congressman from Huntsville believes this is nothing new and noted how political it all is.

“Democrats perceive that that’s going to help them tremendously in the 2020 elections just a few months from now,” he advised.

My takeaway:

Brooks, of course, is right.

The argument from the media and their Democrats is always going to be some version of: “We want to give you [this] and they don’t because they want you to die.”

Free healthcare, free childcare, free college education, and it never stops.

Stopping any of this is the equivalent of kicking a baby in the face and taking its food.

Democrats have bought into this idea for years, and in the time of rampant unemployment and a pandemic, they will kick their grievance politics into full gear to gain new power.

The House, Senate and presidency are at risk this year. Republicans can give in and extend the $600 unemployment benefit (they will), and Democrats will just move to the next free item.

In 2020, this strategy might work.

Listen:

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

12 hours ago

Dollar General opens 450,000 square foot distribution center in Montgomery

Budget shopping chain Dollar General on Wednesday announced the opening of its large, new cold storage distribution center in Montgomery.

The 450,000 square foot facility is the product of a $26 million investment for the company and will support around 65 new jobs in the River Region.

The Montgomery facility is cold storage, meaning it is designed to store goods that must be kept chilled like milk and deli products.

“Welcome to Montgomery Dollar General, thank you for investing in our state and in our people,” said Governor Kay Ivey on Wednesday during a digital event celebrating the facility being opened.

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“We are incredibly grateful for the tremendous support from both state and local officials who helped make this project happen,” remarked Rod West, Dollar General’s vice president of perishables growth and development.

The low-cost retailer opened its first store in Alabama in 1965 and now has around 800 retail locations in the Yellowhammer State.

“Dollar General is a trusted company with a long history in Alabama,” said Elton Dean, Montgomery County Commission chairman, in a statement on Monday.

“The River Region has a lot to offer, and we are thrilled that this esteemed organization, that does business across the country, recognizes that,” Dean added.

Dollar General also has a traditional distribution center in Bessemer and claims to employ approximately 8,100 Alabamians in total.

Montgomery’s new distribution center is located on Mobile Highway, around 15 minutes southwest of downtown.

“We welcome Dollar General and look forward to years of partnership and progress to come,” commented Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed on Wednesday,

The company says it will support around 1,500 stores in surrounding areas and help spur the “DG Fresh” initiative “which is a strategic multi-phased shift to self-distribution of frozen and refrigerated goods such as dairy, deli and frozen products” according to a release.

“We are confident that Dollar General recognized our strong workforce and business-friendly environment when choosing a location for this facility. We are excited to welcome Dollar General and countless companies to come, to grow in Montgomery,” concluded Arthur DuCote, Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce chairman.

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

12 hours ago

Alabama Forestry Association endorses Tommy Tuberville for U.S. Senate

The Alabama Forestry Association (AFA) on Wednesday announced its endorsement of Republican nominee Tommy Tuberville in the Yellowhammer State’s 2020 U.S. Senate race.

Tuberville, after defeating former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions in last month’s GOP primary runoff, is set to face U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) in November’s general election. The AFA had endorsed Sessions in the runoff contest.

In a statement, AFA executive vice president Chris Isaacson said, “We are proud to endorse Tommy Tuberville in the United States Senate race. He is a conservative with an impressive list of accomplishments, and we know that he will continue that record in his role as U.S. Senator.”

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“Tommy knows that decisions made in Washington impact families and businesses and will be an effective voice for the people of Alabama,” he concluded.

This comes as another major endorsement for Tuberville from the agribusiness community. The Alabama Farmers Federation endorsed the former Auburn University football coach last year and has been credited as being integral along his path to securing the Republican nomination.

“I am honored to have the endorsement of the Alabama Forestry Association. The AFA is an excellent organization that stands for pro-business policies. Protecting Alabama industry is a key to our state’s success,” Tuberville stated.

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