1 week ago

Steven Reed accepts money from Bruce Pettway, Donald Watkins, Jr. in Montgomery mayoral campaign

MONTGOMERY — Yellowhammer News has confirmed that Montgomery County Probate Judge Steven Reed’s mayoral campaign in April accepted $25,000 from Bruce Pettway and $250 from Donald Watkins, Jr.

Pettway, a Birmingham-area resident, is the brother of the Jefferson County sheriff and recently was met with statewide controversy over obtaining an electronic bingo permit from the city of Graysville in that jurisdiction. Electronic bingo has been affirmed as illegal by the Alabama Supreme Court. Pettway’s permit has since been canceled and refunded by the city.

Watkins, Jr. and his father were recently found guilty in a federal, multimillion-dollar investment and bank fraud trial. Sentencing is set for July 16.

When convicted in March, the Watkins father and son were called “financial predators who truly represent pure greed” by the local FBI special agent in charge.

An assistant attorney general called Watkins, Jr. and his father “frauds, plain and simple.”

When asked by Yellowhammer News about the contributions, Reed campaign spokesman Chip Hill said in a statement, “Judge Reed is grateful to have the support of so many including his lifelong friend Donald Watkins, Jr. and Bruce Pettway, the brother of the Jefferson County Sheriff.”

“But, we certainly understand that as the favorite to win this race, Judge Reed will be the target of smears by our opponents’ floundering campaigns, like Artur Davis who only has a thousand dollars in the bank, negatives in the mid 30’s and enough personal baggage to sink a boat,” Hill added, speaking of former Congressman Artur Davis, who was running second to Reed in a recent poll. Yellowhammer News did not mention Davis in its inquiry to the Reed campaign.

The Montgomery mayoral race features a crowded field, with Reed and Davis enjoying the most name recognition due to their prior political runs.

Reed raised $70,111.52 total in April. You can view his campaign finance report here. His office, as the Montgomery County Probate office, is in charge of administering and overseeing the very mayoral election he is running in. This is a conflict of interest, according to Davis.

In response to Hill’s statement, Davis campaign spokesman Scott Stone told Yellowhammer News, “Steven Reed’s campaign is practicing the oldest rule in politics: when under pressure, lash out at the biggest threat, whom they know is Congressman Davis, who by the way has not said a word about Reed’s contributors.”

“While Artur Davis may not be table to match Reed in money, he is cleaning his clock every day when it comes to clarity of vision, substantive policy proposals, and a commitment to take his message to every single part of the city,” Stone continued. “And when voters learn more about just how Steven Reed runs the probate office, and how he and his associates have misused that office for political and personal gain, we will see just where this race stands.”

Stone also pointed to what he views as questionable campaign finance activity by Reed’s campaign for re-election as probate judge in 2018.

“And we won’t be lectured on how much money we have or don’t have by a candidate who claims he ran up a $100,000 in debt in a Probate Judge race when he was unopposed and used that debt to raise money for the mayor’s race through the backdoor,” Stone concluded.

Reed in April also accepted a contribution from his father, longtime Alabama Democratic Conference boss Joe Reed.

Other candidates include Air Force Gen. Ed Crowell (Ret.), attorney JC Love and local FOX affiliate WCOV owner David Woods. Montgomery County Commission Chairman Elton Dean was the first to declare his candidacy but has struggled to pick up steam.

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

9 hours ago

GoFundMe raising money for fallen Auburn PD officer William Buechner

A GoFundMe has been established in memory of Auburn Police Department Officer William Buechner, who was shot and killed in the line of duty late Sunday night.

A representative of the fundraising platform has confirmed its authenticity to Yellowhammer News. The GoFundMe will establish a memorial fund to assist Buechner’s family.

While the initial goal was set at $10,000, the campaign has already blown through that benchmark in less than 24 hours, raising over $20,500 as of 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday.

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Buechner leaves behind a wife (Sara) and two children, including a one-year-old daughter.

In addition to raising funds, prayers are also being requested for the family.

Governor Kay Ivey on Monday ordered flags in Alabama to be flown at half-staff until sunset on Saturday to honor Buechner.

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

9 hours ago

Randall Woodfin: Alabama abortion ban could end two tech companies bids to locate in Birmingham

Since passage and being signed into law by Gov. Kay Ivey, the fallout from the new abortion ban has been harsh for many in Alabama.

Opponents of the law warned passage would not only impact Alabama’s reputation, but it could also threaten economic development opportunities for Alabama.

On Tuesday, Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin claimed that in fact was the case.

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Birmingham FOX affiliate WBRC reported that the abortion ban could be the reason two tech firms could take a pass on locating in Birmingham.

Woodfin did not disclose the name of the firms.

Yellowhammer News reached out to the Birmingham mayor’s office and the Birmingham Business Alliance, which functions as the metropolitan area’s chamber of commerce, about the merits of the report and is still awaiting a response.

@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.

10 hours ago

‘Party of no?’ Democrats block lottery bill in Alabama House, end best chance of Medicaid expansion

MONTGOMERY — SB 220, State Sen. Greg Albritton’s (R-Atmore) clean paper-only lottery bill, failed on a procedural vote in the Alabama House of Representatives on Tuesday, essentially killing the bill.

Democrats joined with hardline conservatives to stop the bill from even getting fully debated on the floor in a 53-36 vote, with one abstention. Fifty-four affirmative votes were needed (60% of those voting) on the procedural motion, meaning the lottery failed by a single vote.

Political observers were quick to note that Democrats have been pushing a lottery for the past two decades, campaigning on the right of the people of Alabama to vote via referendum on the issue. However, on Tuesday, Democrats stood in the way of that becoming reality.

The bill had been passed by the Senate but seems to be dead in the House. Observers believe this was the best chance a lottery had of getting to a referendum this quadrennium and for the foreseeable future.

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State Rep. Steve Clouse (R-Ozark) carried the bill in the House. He presented a substitute during a committee meeting last week that changed the revenue distribution in the bill so that 75% of funds would flow to the state general fund, while 25% would go to the Education Trust Fund. The committee adopted the substitute unanimously during that previous meeting. On advancing the bill itself, the only two “nay” votes in committee were Democrats.

The bill passed beforehand by the Senate did not allow for any revenue to benefit education.

Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) has said that lottery money benefitting the general fund would protect the education fund.

The general fund has obligations that are expected to grow significantly in coming years, including Medicaid and the corrections system.

Despite the fact that the House Minority Caucus, i.e. the House Democrats, have said Medicaid expansion is their number one priority, killing the lottery bill on Tuesday ended their best chance of achieving that goal.

House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels (D-Huntsville) had a conversation with Marsh recently in which Marsh told Daniels Medicaid expansion was not possible right now because of a lack of general fund revenue to fund the expansion. However, Marsh added to Daniels that lottery revenues bolstering the general fund could make Medicaid expansion a realistic option.

On Tuesday, Democrats complained that SB 220 would not raise the maximum amount of money possible because it did not expand other forms of gaming, like slot machines, or legalize existing electronic bingo operations in places like Greene County or Macon County.

Clouse expressed that his bill would raise more revenue than the alternative, which of course is not having a lottery at all. SB 220 was projected to generate $167 million in revenue for the state annually once the lottery got fully operational.

Procedurally, SB 220 could be brought back up by the House if Democrats stop blocking the lottery legislation.

Update 4:50 p.m.:

Proponents of the lottery in the House will likely attempt the procedural motion again on Tuesday night. Only one attempt at reconsideration is allowed by the chamber’s rules.

It is important to note that 63 votes would be needed for final passage, even if the 60% of those voting threshold is met on the procedural vote.

Update 8:15 p.m.:

Clouse told reporters the lottery will not come back up on Tuesday.

State Rep. Terri Collins (R-Decatur) told Yellowhammer News that she intends to bring an amendment to the lottery legislation to make the revenue be split equally between education and the General Fund.

Daniels told Yellowhammer News that giving more of the revenue to the Education Trust Fund would not win over his party’s votes, saying their opposition is “much broader than that.”

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

11 hours ago

‘Real and painful consequences’: Ala. Secretary of Commerce, Toyota head ‘profoundly disappointed’ by Trump trade action

President Donald Trump has now concurred with a Department of Commerce Section 232 report that deemed imports of automobiles and automobile parts as a “national security threat,” with the president’s determination seriously worrying Alabama’s automobile manufacturing industry and economic development leaders.

The Department of Commerce report, delivered to Trump on February 17, concluded that imports of automobiles and certain automobile parts threaten to impair the national security of the United States. On Friday, Trump announced that he has completed his review of the report and agrees with its conclusion.

The president has ordered U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to open a negotiation process with affected countries like Japan and, if agreements are not reached within 180 days, tariffs could be instituted on auto and auto parts imports from those countries.

Focusing on Japanese automobile manufacturers alone, Alabama is home to a Honda manufacturing facility in Lincoln, and the under-construction Mazda-Toyota joint venture in Huntsville features two Japanese auto giants.

In a statement on Tuesday, Akio Toyoda, who is president of Toyota and chairman of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA) emphasized that he “is profoundly disappointed by President Trump’s announcement.”

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Speaking on behalf of JAMA, Toyoda said, “We are dismayed to hear a message suggesting that our long-time contributions of investment and employment in the United States are not welcomed. As Chairman, I am deeply saddened by this decision.”

“For JAMA member companies, providing the best possible vehicle options for our customers is our top priority. We now have 24 manufacturing plants, 45 research-and-development/design centers, and 39 distribution centers in 28 states, and have cumulatively invested approximately $51 billion in manufacturing facilities alone,” he outlined. “It is also important to remember that, even during the Great Recession, JAMA member companies made great efforts to maintain employment, and currently we provide more than 93,000 direct American jobs. According to a new study, a total of over 1.6 million jobs (including intermediate and spin-off jobs) in the U.S. are supported by Japanese automakers. These numbers speak for themselves about JAMA member companies’ long history of local contributions and commitment as U.S. corporate citizens, and we are certain that neither imported vehicles and parts nor our American operations ‘threaten to impair’ the U.S. national security.”

Toyoda also warned that potential moves like tariffs down the line from the United States could have major consequences for places with large auto industries like Alabama.

“Any trade restrictive measures would deliver a serious blow to the U.S. auto industry and economy, as it would not only disadvantage U.S. consumers, but also adversely affect the global competitiveness of U.S.-produced vehicles and suppress company investments in the U.S,” Toyoda advised.

He continued, “We believe that free and fair trade as well as a competitive business environment based on international rules support the global competitiveness of the U.S. auto industry, leading to consumer benefits and sustained growth of the U.S. economy.”

“JAMA member companies strongly hope that President Trump understands our desire to further contribute to the U.S. economy and employment and that the dialogue between the governments of Japan and the U.S. leads to an outcome that supports the development of the auto industries and economies of both nations,” Toyoda concluded.

In a statement to Yellowhammer News, Alabama Secretary of Commerce Greg Canfield said “the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Section 232 findings… set the stage for tariffs that threaten to seriously disrupt the operations of” the state’s auto manufacturing operations “and put Alabama jobs on the line.”

Canfield explained, “Automakers based in Europe and Japan have made profound contributions to Alabama’s economy through significant investment and job creation that has enriched families and communities. Mercedes-Benz opened a manufacturing facility in Alabama 22 years ago; today, that complex has seen nearly $6 billion in investment and is home to thousands of jobs. Between them, Honda and Toyota have invested well over $3 billion in their Alabama manufacturing operations and employ more than 5,000 people in Alabama. Toyota and Mazda are currently investing another $1.6 billion to open an auto assembly plant in Alabama with 4,000 new jobs. Auto suppliers for these automakers have also invested heavily in operations in Alabama — and they continue to do so.”

“Over the years, Alabama has formed strong partnerships with these automotive companies,” he added. “We’ve also made many lasting friendships with industry leaders, including Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota Motor Corp., who personally came to Alabama’s capital to announce the Mazda Toyota Manufacturing USA assembly plant in 2018, and the top leadership at Honda and Mercedes.”

“We regret to see these relationships imperiled by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Section 232 findings that set the stage for tariffs that threaten to seriously disrupt the operations of these Alabama manufacturing operations and put Alabama jobs on the line. We will continue to work to help the Trump administration understand that these proposed tariffs will have real and painful consequences for many hard-working Alabamians and companies that have established roots in our state,” Canfield concluded.

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

11 hours ago

Conservatives and liberals should agree — it’s time to #DefundAPTV

There is a public relations crisis gripping Alabama and it must be addressed by the Alabama legislature.

The risk is so real that tourism could plummet, businesses could flee the state and educated young people could choose to move out of their home state for a more welcoming state.

A gay rat is marrying a gay aardvark and they have invited the gay rat’s third-grade students to the wedding and Alabama Public Television  (APTV) refused to carry it.

Seriously.

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Let’s ignore how unlikely it is that a teacher would invite his students to his wedding, let’s ignore that the main character wears glasses but not on his ears and let’s ignore that this is somehow an aardvark.

(Arthur/Facebook)

Let’s ignore all of that and focus on the real issues here. Should the state of Alabama be using taxpayer dollars to fund any of this?

“Arthur” already has a controversial past in Alabama. In 2005, APTV blocked another showing of the show because there was a character with two gay moms.

A Google search says, “Arthur often deals with important issues families face such as asthma, dyslexia, cancer, diabetes, and autism spectrum disorder.”

Super-edgy stuff.

But the real problem is this kind of censorship should lead to liberals demanding that the entire entity of Alabama Public Television be disbanding for refusing to show the kind of diversity they demand out of all forms of entertainment, including Marvel’s cinematic universe.

Conservatives should be demanding that we eliminate APTV altogether because there are plenty of other outlets doing the same kind of programming and there is no need for state resources to be propping up this kind of programming.

This programming is not cheap.

These resources can go somewhere else instead of fueling the culture wars that are ripping our state apart and giving us a black eye nationally.

So…

If you are a liberal, contact your legislators and demand they #DefundAPTV for daring to erase this beautiful and brave cartoon rat and aardvark’s wedding.

If you are a conservative, contact your legislators and demand they #DefundAPTV and rein in this reckless spending on programming that is attempting to brainwash our young people.

Eliminate this menace today (and get rid of Alabama Public Radio while you are at it).

(Arthur/Facebook)

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