1 year ago

Text of Ivey infrastructure bill released as support for the plan grows

MONTGOMERY — Shortly after a Friday afternoon press conference in which prominent city and county leaders from across the state spoke in support of Governor Kay Ivey’s Rebuild Alabama plan, the governor’s office released the text of the bill to the public.

The just-finalized bill, which was made available to state legislators earlier in the day, has been released in time to be studied before the start of the 2019 regular Alabama legislative session, which convenes Tuesday at noon. State Rep. Bill Poole (R-Tuscaloosa) will be filing the bill.

A wide cross-section of Rebuild Alabama proponents was on display at the press conference, including Ivey’s top opponents from the 2018 election cycle: Mayor Tommy Battle (R-Huntsville) and Mayor Walt Maddox (D-Tuscaloosa).

Battle said, “The whole process of this is to add to the economy of the state of Alabama. Governor, thank you for taking this up – it’s not an easy thing to take on, but we know what’s good for Huntsville is good for Mobile is good for Jasper is good for Auburn/Opelika. As we take care of this infrastructure, we add to the economy of the state, and we make the state stronger.”

Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s firm support of the governor’s plan is also especially significant, considering his and his family’s longtime leadership in the state’s forestry industry.

At the press conference, Stimpson joined Battle, Maddox and Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange in thanking Ivey, emphasizing, “This is a generational opportunity to do something that’s desperately needed.”

Paraphrasing something Ivey has previously said, Strange said, “We need to do the right thing – this is it – we need to do it the right way – and this is it – and we need to do it right now. Time is of the essence to get this done.”

Strange’s emphasis on addressing the state’s infrastructure needs now was a key focus of representatives of the Association of County Commissioners of Alabama (ACCA) at the press conference, too.

ACCA President Tony Cherry, who is a commissioner in Choctaw County, remarked, “It’s going to take all 67 counties to get this done.”

ACCA President-elect David Money, who is a Republican, the probate judge and the county commission chair in Henry County, presented the association’s report entitled, “The Cost of Doing Nothing.” The new report was released to the public during the press conference.

Money outlined that the state’s infrastructure has correspondingly declined as the state gas tax’s buying power has plummeted since it was last adjusted in 1992.

“Doing nothing is no longer an option,” he said.

Blount County Commission Chairman and Probate Judge Chris Green also spoke in favor of the Rebuild Alabama plan, highlighting the benefits it would have for rural farm-to-market roads.

This came after the Alabama Farmers Federation on Wednesday released a statement supporting Ivey’s plan.

“We commend Gov. Ivey for her courage and foresight to tackle some of Alabama’s biggest challenges,” Farmers Federation President Jimmy Parnell said. “The Federation supports increased and equitable funding for farm-to-market roads, and the governor’s plan addresses this need. Our members rely on roads and bridges to receive supplies; get their crops, livestock and poultry to market; and travel for work and school. Poor and inadequate infrastructure is one of the greatest barriers to rural Alabama enjoying the same economic growth as larger cities. We appreciate the governor putting forth a plan that is reasonable, accountable and benefits all Alabama residents.”

To conclude the press conference, representatives from the Alabama League of Municipalities (ALM) also spoke.

Bessemer City Council and ALM President Jesse Matthews gave his strong support for Rebuild Alabama, stating, “We look forward to working hand-in-hand with Governor Ivey and the state legislature to make this dream become a reality.”

Opelika Mayor Gary Fuller wrapped up the statements from local leaders, again thanking the governor and offering his endorsement of the plan.

Important details become clear with bill’s release

The release of the exact bill will answer lingering questions some residents have about Rebuild Alabama.

The revenues raised from the new proposed fuel tax will not be able to be put towards salaries or other compensation that are not direct project costs; purchase or maintenance of equipment; or building structures or buildings that are not installed as part of a road or bridge project.

ALDOT’s portion of the revenues from the tax will be put in the new “Rebuild Alabama Fund,” which will be annually audited and reported to the Joint Transportation Committee with a mandatory itemization of specific projects.

This is part of why Ivey stressed that the bill has “strong accountability” measures to ensure the new revenues are being spent correctly and transparently.

In the press conference, the governor also confirmed that she is moving to stop the recent annual diversion of money from the Road and Bridge Fund to pay for shortages in Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA, which includes state troopers) and the court system funding. In her budget she will propose to the legislature this year, what has been a yearly diversion of approximately $63 million will be cut in half. Ivey hopes to bring that number down to zero in the coming years.

“I’m still protecting the courts and ALEA will be protected,” she explained, noting that the diversion needed to be phased out to accomplish this.

Ivey will ask the legislature to fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) out of the education trust fund so the general fund can accommodate the approximately $30 million not being diverted from ALDOT in the coming budget.

The Alabama Transportation Institute has estimated the fuel tax increase will cost the average Alabama driver $55 per year.

A report released earlier this week by a nonprofit transportation research group concluded that Alabama drivers are losing between approximately $1,300-$1,800 annually due to deficient infrastructure.

Hybrid and electric vehicle fees are included in the bill. A large portion of the registration fees for electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids will be used to fund the electric transportation infrastructure grant program.

The purpose of this grant program will be to help alleviate the lack of charging infrastructure in the state and to help drivers have access to adequate infrastructure for electric transportation.

You can read a one-page summary of the Rebuild Alabama bill here.

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

8 hours ago

Fmr Gov. Don Siegelman appears to be using outrage over George Floyd to sell new book

Former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman to sell his new book is using robocalls that appear to reference the current unrest over George Floyd’s death while in Minneapolis police custody.

On Thursday afternoon, a Yellowhammer News reporter received a robocall from 1 (800) 890-5875, a number listed as “Robocaller” by the phone protection company NoMoRobo. The voiceover of the robocall was apparently recorded by Siegelman himself.

The message began, “Don Siegelman, your governor here. We’ve got to protect people from the abuse of power by police, prosecutors, or presidents.”

“My new book, Stealing our Democracy, is a wakeup call to action. It’s also number one among new releases on amazon.com,” the message added.

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An individual from the Wiregrass told Yellowhammer News that she also received the voicemail.

In addition to that, at least one Twitter user appeared to have received the robocall.

Siegelman was convicted on June 29, 2006, of conspiracy, bribery and fraud.

The former Alabama Democratic governor appeared to lump in his claimed unjust treatment by the authorities with the death of George Floyd.

Listen:

Siegelman is currently promoting his new book “Stealing Our Democracy.”

Yellowhammer News’ request for comment from Siegelman was not immediately returned. A message was left on his personal cell phone number.

He claimed the book is “#1 among new releases on amazon.com”

Yellowhammer News examined the new releases chart on Amazon.com, which revealed that Siegelman’s book is not in the top 100 best selling new releases.

However, the book is #1 in the sub-subcategory “Urban, State & Local Government Law.”

Urban, State & Local Government Law is one of 12 sub-subcategories of the “Administrative Law” subcategory.

The “Administrative Law” subcategory is one of 23 subcategories under the category “Law.”

“Law” is one of 36 categories into which Amazon divides the kinds new-release books that it sells.

As a matter of record, the book is only available for pre-order. It has not been released to the public yet.

The former governor’s book claims that his downfall and conviction of felony bribery were part of a politically motivated prosecution coordinated by Karl Rove.

His book will be released to the public on June 16.

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

8 hours ago

Two charged with capital murder in slaying of Moody PD officer

Two suspects have been charged with capital murder in the case of slain Moody Police Department officer Stephen Williams.

The two suspects are 27-year-old male Tapero Corlene Johnson and 28-year-old female Marquisha Anissa Tyson. Both are from Birmingham and will be eligible for the death penalty if convicted.

At a press conference Friday, St. Clair County Sheriff Billy Murray described said the investigation is still continuing and described it as “complex and intense.”

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Williams was posthumously promoted to lieutenant at the press conference on Thursday by Moody Police Chief Thomas Hunt.

Hunt said Williams had remarked at times that he would like to achieve the rank of lieutenant someday, and now he will forever be known as Lt. Stephen Williams.

The District Attorney for St. Clair County said the two suspects had been in police custody since the shooting on Tuesday night.

Investigators say they have determined that Johnson and Tyson fired weapons at Williams who was responding to a disturbance at a Super 8 Motel.

A GoFundMe page to help Williams’ family has been raising money in recent days.

Williams served the public as a police officer for 23 years before being killed in the line of duty this week.

Governor Kay Ivey commented on the incident earlier in the week, saying Williams “died a hero.”

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

9 hours ago

Data shows Alabama nursing homes performing better than national average for COVID-19 cases, deaths

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on Thursday released facility-specific COVID-19 data for nursing homes across the United States, and an analysis of the data shows Alabama fairing better than the national average.

The data was collected on a mandatory basis by the CDC and currently covers through the week ending on May 31.

Nationwide, the average number of confirmed coronavirus cases per 1,000 residents in nursing homes was 91.2, while the average number of deaths from the disease per 1,000 residents was 30.2.

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In Alabama, both of those numbers were significantly lower than the national average, at 64.9 and 20.9, respectively.

Alabama Nursing Home Association president and CEO Brandon Farmer issued a statement on the data’s release.

“According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), Alabama nursing homes report fewer cases of COVID-19 per 1,000 residents and fewer deaths from COVID-19 per 1,000 residents than the national average,” he confirmed.

“Because we are on the front lines of fighting COVID-19, we expect the number of COVID-19 cases to rise as more tests are administered and the data is added to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) system. The Alabama Nursing Home Association hopes this data will be used to prioritize resources for skilled nursing facilities,” Farmer advised.

“Alabama nursing homes have been transparent from the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he continued. “Our members have reported cases to their local county health department and the Alabama Department of Public Health from the start. In May, we began reporting cases to the CDC. Facilities also inform residents and their family representatives and employees of cases in their buildings. We are following the guidelines set forth by the multiple state and federal agencies that regulate our sector. No other business or health care provider reports COVID-19 cases to more government entities and people than nursing homes.”

Nationwide, nursing homes reported 95,515 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 31,782 deaths through May 31. Nursing homes in Alabama reported 1,000 confirmed cases and 335 deaths.

Moving forward, CMS will release the next round of data on June 18. After that date, new data should be released weekly.

“The Alabama Nursing Home Association and its members will continue to work with local, state and federal leaders to address the needs of nursing home residents and employees,” Farmer concluded.

The CMS data can be viewed here.

As of Friday at 2:00 p.m., the Alabama Department of Public Health reported 19,073 total confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state, with 672 deaths.

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

10 hours ago

NFIB survey of Alabama business owners shows ongoing COVID-19 related fears

A new study from the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) showed that an overwhelming majority of proprietors are nervous about several aspects of how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting their business.

Yellowhammer News reported in the first week of May that 70% of the NFIB’s membership across the United States was concerned about individuals filing frivolous lawsuits claiming a business had caused them to catch COVID-19.

A poll from the Alabama division of NFIB this week shows that 69% of businesses in the Yellowhammer State remain nervous about lawsuits, and roughly equal amounts are worried whether customers might come back and that it may prove difficult to comply with ongoing regulations.

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The top results of the survey as follows:

  • 70% of owners say they’re very or moderately concerned about getting customers back.
  • 69% are concerned about managing the health and safety of their customers; 66% are concerned about managing the health and safety of employees.
  • 69% are concerned with having to comply with new regulations related to the coronavirus.
  • 68% are concerned about finding an adequate supply of supplies such as hand sanitizer and disinfectant.

NFIB state director Rosemary Elebash told Yellowhammer News Friday that the survey was administered to businesses in every county and every city with a significant population.

“It wasn’t just NFIB members,” Elebash added about the survey, saying the group had worked with a number of trade associations to increase the amount of responses.

The NFIB also continues to strongly support Senator Arthur Orr’s (R-Decatur) bill to grant civil immunity from COVID-19 lawsuits to businesses in Alabama.

Elebash noted in a release that Orr’s bill would be “one of NFIB’s top priorities” if Governor Kay Ivey calls a special session later in the year.

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

10 hours ago

Tuberville: Nationwide unrest linked to ‘education and jobs’

Many argue there is much more to the civil unrest across the nation than the lone incident in Minneapolis involving the death of George Floyd while in the custody of the police department. Former Auburn head football coach Tommy Tuberville indicated he agrees with that.

During an appearance on Huntsville WVNN’s “The Jeff Poor Show,” Tuberville, a candidate for U.S. Senate, said based on his interactions with people on the campaign trail, there is a longing to get back to a sense of normalcy in the wake of the heights of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I speak to eight to ten places a day — groups are worried, obviously. I think they’re getting a little more confident they can go out and be around other people,” he said. “And we’re just hoping we can just put this pandemic, and it is a problem, it is serious — again, you’ve got to protect yourself. It’s not going away. It is still here, especially if you’re having health problems and those things. That will go away — but then all of a sudden we get hit with this civil unrest, and again — we’re all Americans. We’re all in this together. We’ve got to find a solution.”

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Tuberville said he is asked for his thoughts by voters while on the trail, to which he said he points to “education and jobs,” and the erosion of the American middle class.

“I had a group ask me today, ‘Coach, what do you think the problem is?’ Education and jobs. We don’t have a middle class anymore,” Tuberville stated. “There are people out there that don’t have the opportunity to advance in this country like they want to. This is not a black issue. This is not a white issue. This is an American issue. We shipped our jobs to China, bottom line. We’re finding out more and more about that every day, and we’ve got to give the opportunity for young men and women to have a chance to grow in this country, and give them a fair chance. Unfortunately, our middle class has dissipated. We have more drugs in this country, and a lot of people take other options. We got to understand — we’re all in this together, 340 million people. We’re either going to make it together or not make together.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly and host of Huntsville’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN.