2 months ago

Tuberville: Investment in fiber infrastructure, rural broadband access needed for Alabama ‘to move out of the bottom rung in education’

U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) on Wednesday gave an update on his work in Washington, D.C. and some critical issues facing the state of Alabama.

Speaking to reporters on a teleconference, Tuberville first outlined the tours he took last Thursday and Friday of the Wiregrass and Mobile, respectively.

As those visits reflected, the bulk of Tuberville’s priorities right now are closely intertwined with his committee assignments: the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC); Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee (AG); Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee; and Veterans’ Affairs (VA) Committee.

He also touched on the latest supposed relief bill — which would cost about $1.9 trillion — proposed by the Biden administration that is currently working its way through the congressional process.

“Honestly it’s a mess,” the freshman senator said. He lamented that Democrats are now using the budget reconciliation process to circumvent needing any Republican support in the Senate.

“You know, it’s been a bipartisan workload [since the pandemic began with past COVID-19 relief legislation], but now for some reason the Democrats are refusing to negotiate with Republicans. And they’re trying to ram through this partisan bill,” Tuberville advised.

He then outlined examples of the COVID relief package disguising unrelated items on the Democrats’ “wish list,” including millions of dollars for infrastructure projects in California and New York.

“We need targeted relief,” Tuberville stated. “We need targeted relief that actually goes to the Americans who need it now.”

The Republican decried that after delaying the most recent relief package until December, Democrats now “want to jam this $2 trillion down the throats of the taxpayers of this country.”

“We need targeted relief that will help open this country safely,” he commented. “We need to get the country reopened. Our economy needs it.”

Tuberville expressed appreciation for declining COVID case counts and hospitalizations as well as increasing vaccination numbers, while memorializing the more than 500,000 Americans who have already lost their lives from the virus.

“Now’s not the time to let up, though,” he added after outlining some of the positive recent trends related to the pandemic. “We need to continue wearing masks, keep social distancing, wash your hands — when you’re running the ball well, you keep on running.”

“But if we don’t open the country up to the workers and get students back in school, we’re going to be doing this again in the very near future and passing another stimulus bill,” Tuberville warned. “And we don’t need to be spending more and more of the taxpayers’ money. … The taxpayers can’t afford another massive stimulus bill.”

He focused a significant portion of his subsequent remarks on reopening schools.

“I’m on the HELP Committee — the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee — and that’s one of our big topics,” Tuberville said. “The science is clear. Schools can safely reopen without putting teachers and students at risk. I mean, that’s the science. They (Democrats) keep saying, ‘Let’s go by the science.’ Well, there it is. … For some reason, a lot of the schools, especially up north, they’re keeping our kids at home — virtual learning. And that’s not working. We’ve got to get them back in school, learning.”

“Especially students from families and parents who can’t stay at home — they need to go to work,” he continued. “You know, I was a coach and educator and mentor for more than 30 years, and I know firsthand the impact that teachers and mentors have on the lives of young students.”

He lamented reports from across the nation of markedly increased suicide rates among youth during the pandemic.

“Some of my former athletes would not have made it to college football without the strong support of teachers and mentors,” he added. “We’re going to see a huge drop-off [of] kids going to college probably because of less interest. We’ve got to get them away from these computer screens. Our children are losing out … because Democrats keep moving the goal posts. Every time we have something good happen, they keep moving the goal posts. Only 6% of the funds Congress gave K-12 schools in 2020 in these stimulus bills — only 6%, only 6% — has been spent so far. And they want to turn around and give a lot more. Ninety-five percent of the education funds in President Biden’s package that we’re getting ready to look at over the next couple of weeks, 95% will not be spent until 2022. We’re hoping this virus is gone by then. So you can tell, this is not about anything other than just loading up with money — probably to give to the teachers unions. Money is clearly not the issue for reopening. We need to get our kids back in school so they can have a future that they deserve.”

Space Command

Tuberville next addressed the recent announcement that the Department of Defense’s inspector general is investigating the Air Force process that led to Huntsville’s Redstone Arsenal being chosen to house the permanent headquarters of Space Command.

The junior senator from Alabama reiterated his stance voiced earlier this week that Redstone was a deserving choice for the important basing decision.

“Our staff — we’ve had several briefings with the Air Force about their decision,” Tuberville shared. “And they confirmed that Alabama, which they already knew, was the best place to have Space Command. Huntsville is the best fit.”

“We knew that because of the change in administrations that it’d be looked at,” he continued. “But it was based on a merit-based decision, and it was looked at from all different directions — low cost of living, good schools and job opportunities — that Huntsville was the best place. So, they’re welcome to review this.”

Tuberville underlined that new Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has already publicly backed the Air Force on the matter.

“So, we welcome the decision for them to look at it,” he remarked. “But at the end of the day, I’m confident that they will find the decision is the right one for the future of Space Command and our national security and the American taxpayer. … This wasn’t a political decision. This was a decision based on facts.”

‘One of our biggest obstacles’

One issue that continues to be of paramount importance across Alabama is the access of high-speed, reliable broadband internet service, especially in rural and other underserved areas. Asked by Yellowhammer News, Tuberville talked about his support for investing in broadband infrastructure, especially fiber, across all levels of government.

“That’s probably one of our biggest obstacles, Sean,” Tuberville said of the lack of broadband access in rural Alabama.

“It takes a lot of money to put fiber into some of these rural areas, but we’ve got no choice,” he outlined. “If we’re going to educate our kids and we’re going to move out of the bottom rung in education in the state of Alabama, we have got to get fiber. And there’s a lot of talk about it; I know our governor, Governor Ivey, is on top of this.”

He also explained how this relates to the pandemic and suggested some relief funds should be utilized to address the issue.

“Hopefully, if we spent $2 trillion, you’d think we would have a lot of money going into fiber. Not just in Alabama, but a lot of other states across the country,” Tuberville stated. “You can’t even have virtual learning if you don’t have internet at home. You can’t do it. … [W]e have to have not just a state and local plan, but we have to have a national plan for fiber optics, to get people the internet they need.”

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

12 hours ago

U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers: ‘Shameful’ Pelosi blocking Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act — ‘Simply supporting infanticide’

Congressman Mike Rogers (AL-03) on Wednesday released a scathing statement regarding House Democrats blocking consideration of the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act.

Rogers announced that he has signed onto a discharge petition that would force Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to bring this legislation — H.R. 619 — up for a vote in the House.

“As a father of three children and a Christian, this legislation is so important to me,” stated Rogers, the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee.

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All six Alabama Republicans in the U.S. House are cosponsors of H.R. 619, which was was introduced by Reps. Ann Wagner (R-MO) and Steve Scalise (R-LA) in January. The bill would ensure any baby born that survives an abortion would receive the same standard of medical care as a baby born under normal circumstances.

“I will never understand how any human would not support caring for a tiny, living baby that survives an attempted abortion,” he continued. “Anyone who is okay with not helping these babies is simply supporting infanticide. I will always stand up for the rights of the most innocent among us, and it’s shameful that Nancy Pelosi will not even bring this critical legislation up for a vote.”

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

13 hours ago

Alabama Senate passes bill banning biological males from competing in female sports

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama Senate on Thursday passed HB 391, which would would prohibit biological males from competing in public school female sports — and vice versa.

The legislation, which only applies to public K-12 schools, would prohibit competition by one gender against another, unless the event specifically is intended to include both genders.

HB 391 was carried in the Senate by Sen. Garlan Gudger (R-Cullman) and is sponsored by Rep. Scott Stadthagen (R-Hartselle).

“A public K-12 school may not allow a biological female to participate on a male team if there is a female team in a sport. A public K-12 school may never allow a biological male to participate on a female team,” says the amended version of the bill passed by the Senate.

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In sports where there are not separate competitions for females and males, such as football, both genders would still be able to participate together.

“This bill is significantly important to protecting the integrity of women’s sports,” stated Gudger. “Our sisters, daughters and granddaughters deserve to compete in fairly organized sports without being put at a disadvantage. I appreciate Representative Stadthagen for having me carry this bill in the Senate, and I commend him for his diligent work on this critical issue.”

More than a dozen states are considering similar restrictions on high school athletes to prevent what they view as an unfair advantage in competition.

The Senate’s vote on HB 391 was on party lines, 25-5. This comes after two Democrats supported and one Democrat abstained in a committee vote on the bill just two weeks ago. View a tweet thread from Thursday’s Senate debate here.

HB 391 now heads back to the House for concurrence or nonconcurrence. It originally passed the lower chamber in a bipartisan 74-19 vote.

“It is unreasonable for biological males to compete against females in high school sports,” Stadthagen commented. “Allowing this to happen does not put female athletes on a fair and level playing field with their biological male counterparts, and that is what this bill aims to resolve. I was pleased to hear that my colleagues in the upper chamber value the integrity and justness of female sports, and I thank Senator Gudger for handling this bill in the Senate.”

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

14 hours ago

Senate passes Alabama Second Amendment Preservation Act

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama Senate on Thursday passed SB 358, which would create the Alabama Second Amendment Preservation Act.

Sponsored by Sen. Gerald Allen (R-Tuscaloosa), the bill would outlaw state and local governments — including law enforcement agencies thereof — from enforcing any federal firearms act, law, order, rule or regulation that becomes effective after January 1, 2021.

The party-line vote by the Senate was 22-5.

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“I took an oath of office when sworn into this body to defend the Constitution of this country and this state,” stated Allen. “As an elected official, I will do everything in my power to preserve the rights of Alabamians, especially those granted by the Second Amendment, and I will always push back on any proposals that seek to limit the freedoms bestowed upon us.”

“The Alabama Second Amendment Preservation Act ensures the people of Alabama are protected from any unnecessary overreach by the federal government and is meant to be a check on proposals that infringe on our right to self-defense coming from the Biden Administration or the Democratic controlled Congress,” he continued. “SB358 is about safeguarding our God-given rights to protect our families and homes. The Second Amendment says the right to bear arms shall not be infringed upon, and with this piece of legislation, Alabamians can feel confident that their rights are being protected.”

Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro) and Sen. Rodger Smitherman (D-Birmingham) argued that SB 358 would violate the Supremacy Clause. The Democrats said the act, as a result, would ultimately be ruled unconstitutional by the judicial system after costing the State of Alabama significant money to defend it in court.

“We don’t need a ‘Second Amendment Preservation Act’ in the state of Alabama,” said Singleton. “The constitution does that already.”

He noted “the bill really does no harm,” before adding that he does not like the message it sends.

You can view a tweet thread on Senate debate regarding SB 358 here.

The Alabama Senate’s vote came after President Joe Biden last week began rolling out executive orders on gun control.

RELATED: Speaker Mac McCutcheon: As Biden attempts to roll back Second Amendment freedoms, Alabama House Republicans stand in the breach to protect them

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

16 hours ago

Tim Vines confirmed as newest Auburn University trustee

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama Senate on Thursday unanimously confirmed Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama CEO Tim Vines as an at-large member of the Auburn University board of trustees.

He will complete the final three years of the unexpired term of Gen. Lloyd Austin, who resigned from Auburn’s board in January after he was confirmed as the nation’s secretary of defense.

Vines has worked at BCBS of Alabama since 1994. He rose through the management ranks at Blue Cross until he was elected to his present position in 2018. The LaFayette native graduated from Auburn’s Harbert College of Business in 1988 with a degree in finance. He was also a member of the Auburn baseball team.

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“In addition to his business and management credentials, the Trustee Selection Committee nominated Tim Vines for the position because of his dedication to Auburn University and its students,” stated Wayne Smith, who serves as board president pro tem.

This dedication includes Vines giving an annual scholarship to the Harbert College of Business. He is an Auburn Alumni Association lifetime member, a member of the James E. Foy Loyalty Society and a member of the 1856 Society. The Birmingham Auburn Club awarded Vines its 2019 Distinguished Auburn Alumnus Award.

He also served as the 2018 Auburn University summer commencement speaker, where he encouraged graduates, “Serve well by serving others. In life or in your chosen profession, ask what you can do to help others. … Whatever you do, make sure you do it with excellence.”

Vines’ term will expire on February 8, 2024.

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

17 hours ago

Alabama State Parks launching historic corporate giving, improvement campaign

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey on Thursday joined the Alabama State Parks Foundation, local corporate leaders and other stakeholders at Oak Mountain State Park to announce unprecedented efforts aimed at investing millions of dollars into park improvements.

The governor spoke about an $80 million bond issue for park improvements that must be approved by voters through a constitutional amendment in the 2022 general election if the state legislature approves it this session. House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville) and Rep. Wes Kitchens (R-Arab) are sponsoring this legislation, which passed the House on Tuesday and now heads to the Senate for consideration.

“Alabamians love and cherish the State Parks, and we must make sure they are maintained and available for generations to come,” Ivey remarked. “I support the use of state bonds to make the needed enhancements throughout the state parks system.”

Additionally, the non-profit Alabama State Parks Foundation (ASPF) on Thursday announced the launch of its corporate giving campaign with a goal of raising an additional $14 million in the next five years for needed park improvements.

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ASPF kicked off this campaign with pledges of $250,000 by Buffalo Rock Company and $100,000 from the Alabama Power Foundation.

“Since the creation of the Alabama State Parks Foundation in 2018, we have worked to improve and enhance our State Parks, and our corporate giving campaign is another significant and important step for our organization,” ASPF president Dr. Dan Hendricks stated. “I also applaud and thank Governor Ivey for her visionary leadership and support of the State Parks system.

“We believe this innovative public-private partnership will maximize our efforts to help the Alabama State Parks system maintain its place as one of the state’s true treasures,” he added.

The prospective bond issue and ASPF’s fundraising would fast-track projects to expand campgrounds, add cabins and improve internet connectivity, among other priorities.

A majority of funding for Alabama State Parks – 80-90% annually – is generated through user fees for rental, lodging, golf and other amenities in the parks. The system’s finances can also be impacted unexpectedly, such as the tornado that damaged Oak Mountain last month, Hurricane Sally damaging Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores last fall, and another tornado wreaking havoc on the campground and day-use areas at Joe Wheeler State Park in December 2019.

State parks attracted a record 6.27 million visitors in fiscal year 2020, and enhancing facilities or building additional ones should help that number continue to grow.

“Our state parks system is run as efficiently as ever, but there are plenty of needs in every one of the 21 parks — both the small and larger parks,” said Chris Blankenship, commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation. “What Governor Ivey and the Alabama State Parks Foundation have done is create a funding framework for how we can modernize and enhance an already dynamic State Parks system and make it better than ever.

“We plan to be good stewards of the taxpayers’ money, as well as funds so generously donated by the corporate community,” he concluded. “Our state parks offer so many amazing outdoors adventures for all Alabamians, and we appreciate so many people working so hard to help us continue that legacy.”

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