1 week ago

Waggoner helping Alabama lead on artificial intelligence growth

State Sen. Jabo Waggoner (R-Vestavia Hills), the powerful chair of the Senate Rules Committee, is at the forefront of a concerted effort to make Alabama a leader in the emerging field of artificial intelligence (AI).

In the 2019 regular session that concluded last week, the Alabama legislature unanimously passed Waggoner’s Senate Joint Resolution 71, which would create the Alabama Commission on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Associated Technologies.

Now, Governor Kay Ivey has approved Waggoner’s measure, giving the Yellowhammer State one of the first AI, state-focused commissions of its kind in the nation.

“In a few short years, artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies will transform business, create new jobs and grow our economy,” Waggoner said in a statement. “Realizing the full potential and opportunities of AI and related technologies for Alabama requires the combined efforts of our state and local governments, industry, and institutions of higher education.”

The newly created commission will advise Ivey and the legislature on the growth of AI technologies in Alabama and make recommendations on policy and advancing the prowess of the state’s technology sector.

This comes after recent studies have identified opportunities and challenges for Alabama’s technology sector.

For example, Waggoner pointed out that the Bloomberg 2019 U.S. Innovation Index ranked Alabama at 46 of 50 states. The Bloomberg Index is based on several key metrics, including the number of technology companies in a state.

However, a recent Cyberstates study noted that Alabama increased the number of job postings related to AI and other technologies by 57 percent in 2018.

“The outlook for expanding Alabama’s technology industry remains very positive. The Commission on AI will be a focal point to promote this continued growth,” Waggoner advised.

“We have to have a discussion on building an AI-ready workforce and formulate policies to continue the transformative technologies of AI in a responsible way,” he added. “The timing to convene a commission on AI couldn’t be better.”

Another revolutionary technology measure passed by the legislature this session was the Alabama Incentives Modernization (AIM) Act.

This bill, signed into law by Ivey on Thursday, provides an update to Alabama’s incentive law, providing attractive incentives to recruit out-of-state tech companies to the Yellowhammer State. The incentive legislation states, “Alabama must also prepare for the future by attracting and retaining high-tech companies, and preparing and retaining a workforce trained for such jobs.”

“The Alabama Commission on AI complements the technology incentives contained in the newly passed incentive modernization legislation. Together, these two measures give Alabama competitive leverage, and show that we are serious about building a vibrant technology sector,” Waggoner commented.

“The Commission on AI will play an important role in charting a bold course and showing the nation that we are ready for the technology jobs of the present and the future,” he concluded.

Summary of the Alabama Commission on AI as follows:

  • Mission — Advise the Governor and Legislature on all aspects of the growth of artificial intelligence and associated technology and its impact on various sectors in Alabama such as health care, manufacturing, and workforce development.
  • Membership — The 18-member Commission will be constituted as follows: ten members appointed by the Governor; the Secretary of Commerce (or designee); the Secretary of Information Technology (or designee); two members appointed by Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth; two members of the House of Representatives, appointed by Speaker Mac McCutcheon; and two members of the Alabama Senate, appointed by Senate President Del Marsh.
  • Appointees must have professional qualifications in AI, workforce development, technology, or computer science.
  • Governor Ivey shall call the Commission’s first meeting, and then the Commission will elect a chair and vice chair.
  • The Commission is charged with releasing a public report on its findings and recommendations by May 2020.

Fred McCallum, interim president and CEO of the Birmingham Business Alliance, recently wrote in support of Waggoner’s proposal.

“I am writing to express my support for the establishment of the Alabama Commission on Artificial Intelligence and Associated Technologies,” McCallum outlined. “Recent passage of the Alabama Modernization Incentives Act will create an attractive technology ecosystem in the state that boosts entrepreneurship, attracts venture capital, and increases the growth of small businesses such as start-ups.”

He continued, “In the Birmingham region, the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), Southern Research, and Innovation Depot serve as anchors for a thriving innovation and technology scene. The need to ensure that Alabama has skilled workers in this field is greater than ever, and the AI Commission will serve as a complement to these efforts. On behalf of the BBA, I thank you, Senator Waggoner, for your leadership and vision to ensure that Alabama will continue to grow and develop as a technology hub.”

Birmingham has recently been named as a growing tech hub by multiple national publications, including Forbes and Barron’s.

Last year, Huntsville was named as the nation’s best “new tech hub.”

Montgomery, with public-private collaborations with the Air Force, and Mobile have also put recent emphasis on growing tech sectors.

Prominent officials like Waggoner and Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed (R-Jasper) hope the Alabama Modernization Incentives Act will provide added competitiveness to these urban anchors while helping rural areas across the state join in on tech growth moving forward.

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

12 hours ago

Birmingham students awarded scholarships to fuel their studies in technical fields

The Birmingham chapter of the American Association of Blacks in Energy (AABE) recently awarded five students sholarships to further their studies.

The mission of the organization is to provide energy professionals, executives, entrepreneurs and students a pathway to learn more about the energy industry through education, mentoring, community service and business networking.

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Phillip Coffey, Marketing specialist for Alabama Power, helped organize the annual scholarship luncheon. He says the organization gives greater exposure and representation of the energy industry to students and professionals.

The chapter awarded $10,000 in scholarship funds – Iva B. Williams Endowment Scholarships – to five students:

  • Grant Sims.
  • Alexander Washington.
  • Adetola Koiki.
  • Micah Pruitt.
  • Amira Gilford.

The Birmingham chapter of AABE is made up of employees from Alabama Power, Southern PowerSouthern Nuclear Company and Southern Company Services.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

14 hours ago

Tuberville’s warning on immigration: ‘We have more Middle Easterners coming across that border at times than we do people from Latin America’

As was the case with several of the past elections, immigration will be a significant issue in the 2020 campaign cycle, especially with President Donald Trump at the top of the ticket.

The 2020 U.S. Senate GOP primary in Alabama will not be an exception, especially as many Republican base voters are growing restless with congressional Democrats stalling Trump’s effort to secure the U.S.-Mexico border.

During an interview with Mobile radio’s FM Talk 106.5, former Auburn head football coach Tommy Tuberville, a candidate for the Republican nomination for the 2020 U.S. Senate race, decried the lax border security and added that in some cases Middle Easterners were exceeding the number of those from Latin America coming across the border.

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“The problem that we’re having, and people don’t understand this, is we do need workers,” he said. “We need people over here to work. I’m big on immigration, but we got to get them in there the right way. And we’ve got to know who is here. We have more Middle Easterners coming across that border at times than we do people from Latin America. We do not have a clue who is coming across, and a lot of these people aren’t coming over here to help this country out. They’re coming over here to tear this country down. They are not for the Constitution. They are not for our laws. They are not for the people in this country. They want to tear it down, and we’re not going to let that happen.”

“That’s the reason I’m running because I want the people in this country to have safe neighborhoods, safe streets,” Tuberville continued. “It sounds like a politician, but all you got to do is open up your eyes and look. That’s one of my mottos in this campaign: Open your eyes and look at what’s going on, and let’s get these people out of Washington that won’t do anything and put people up there that will make a decision and don’t care if they go back and get reelected.”

@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.

16 hours ago

Roby: Honoring our symbol of freedom

On June 14th, 1777, our country’s flag was officially adopted by a resolution of the Second Continental Congress. Many years later, in 1916, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation that established June 14th as Flag Day, and on August 3, 1949, this day of observance was officially established by an Act of Congress.

Now, every year on June 14th, our country has a special opportunity to celebrate our flag and reflect upon what it symbolizes. The American flag displays 13 horizontal stripes alternating red and white with a blue rectangle, specifically referred to as the “union,” that bears 50 small, white, five-pointed stars arranged in nine horizontal rows. As you may know, the 50 stars on the American flag represent our 50 states. The 13 stripes represent the 13 original colonies that declared independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain and became the first states in the United States.

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While the design of the American flag has been officially modified 26 times since its initial adoption in 1777, the symbolic meaning has remained the same. Whether flown on front lawns across Alabama, in front of schools, universities and businesses of all sizes, or proudly displayed at military installations across this great country, for centuries the American flag has been an inspiring emblem of pride, hope, and freedom for countless people throughout the world.

Whenever I see our flag, I am especially reminded of the hundreds of thousands of men and women who have fought to defend it and all it represents. This year, Flag Day comes during an especially important time, as I recently was proud to announce my 2019 appointees to our United States service academies.

Each year, it is my distinct privilege and honor as a member of Congress to nominate students from the Second District to be considered for appointment to the United States Air Force, Naval, Military and Merchant Marine Academies.

This year, I am very pleased to announce that I nominated the following students who received official appointments to the service academies:

  • Daniel Brayden Banner is the son of Dan and Amanda Banner. He is a graduate of Providence Christian School in Dothan, and he received an offer of appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point.Theodore Maxwell Dowd is the son of John and Donna Dowd. He is a graduate of Northview High School in Dothan, and he received an offer of appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point.
  • Amore Jacarra Hardy is the daughter of Regina Hardy. She is a graduate of Booker T. Washington Magnet High School in Montgomery, and she received an offer of appointment to the United States Air Force Academy.
  • Timothy Jurard McClendon is the son of Emma Lee McClendon. He is a graduate of Carroll High School in Ozark, and he received an offer of appointment to the United States Air Force Academy.
  • Johnny M. Montgomery, III, is the son of Johnny Montgomery. He is a graduate of Stanhope Elmore High School in Millbrook, and he received an offer of appointment to the United States Air Force Academy.
  • Jackson Scott Parker is the son of Scott and Hannah Parker. He is a graduate of Abbeville High School, and he received an offer of appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point.
  • Isaac Taylor Sherman is the son of Jeremy and Morgan Sherman. He is a graduate of Prattville High School, and he received an offer of appointment to the United States Air Force Academy.
  • Seth Cameron White is the son of Steve and Terri White. He is a graduate of Wicksburg High School, and he received an offer of appointment to the United States Naval Academy.

In the spirit of Flag Day, I believe these students from our communities are to be commended not only for their academic excellence, but more importantly, for their eagerness to serve our great country. I am incredibly proud to join their families, friends, teachers and hometowns in offering my sincerest congratulations and thanks. Our flag will continue to shine as a symbol of freedom because of young leaders like these men and women.

Martha Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District. She lives in Montgomery, Alabama, with her husband Riley and their two children.

18 hours ago

SEC Baseball Tournament at Hoover Met sees record crowds

Record crowds of more than 160,000 people attended the 2019 SEC Baseball Tournament.

The tournament, held annually at the Hoover Met Complex, had an estimated $15 million economic impact on the area.

SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said the conference three years ago looked for a host site that would enhance the tournament experience for fans. “After reviewing numerous proposals and visiting a number of potential sites, it turned out that Hoover, our longtime home, could provide everything necessary to make it the right venue for SEC Baseball,” Sankey said.

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He said the city of Hoover stepped things up with the Finley Center to house the SEC Fan Fest, the construction of on-site practice fields and, this year, the addition of a new video board.

“We feel those changes in particular have been game-changers in providing the SEC with a ‘baseball campus’ that is unique to college post-season tournaments,” Sankey said.

From May 21-26, 12 teams competed in the double elimination tournament, which was won by Vanderbilt.

Throughout the week, 162,699 people attended the various baseball games and 32,000 of those attendees came through the SEC Fan Fest. The area included access to inflatables, arcade games, a zip line, climbing, miniature golf course, live entertainment, food and beverage options and more. Fans were able to watch the game from a giant flat-screen TV and couches in the large, air-conditioned facility.

“The 2019 SEC Baseball Tournament was a tremendous success at the Hoover Metropolitan Complex,” said Hoover Mayor Frank V. Brocato. “The city of Hoover was able to welcome a record-setting number of baseball fans throughout the week and attendees had many options for activities around the baseball tournament once they arrived at the complex. … It is certainly our privilege to have hosted this tournament for the past 22 years. We look forward to seeing everyone back in 2020.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

19 hours ago

State Sen. Cam Ward: ‘I don’t think you bring back a lottery’ in proposed prison special session

The Alabama legislature was not able to come to an agreement on a lottery this past general session, meaning the body will likely address it in the future.

Could that come as soon as later this year, when Gov. Kay Ivey will reportedly call a special session to address Alabama’s prison system? Given the state’s prisons are under the threat of a federal government takeover, some have suggested that a lottery could be used as a funding mechanism to fix the state’s ailing prisons.

During an appearance on WVNN’s “The Jeff Poor Show,” Sen. Cam Ward (R-Alabaster), who has been out in front of the prison issue, downplayed the chances of lawmakers addressing the lottery as part of any prison solution.

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“I just don’t see what has changed since the regular session until now that would make a lottery even feasible to bring up in a special session,” Ward said. “I mean, you look at our state. We’re one of four states that have two budgets. And the bulk of our money goes to the education budget, which has a $400 million growth fund this time, and that’s good. But at the same time, we had a lottery that we passed out of the Senate that money went to the general fund, which is constantly struggling with issues like prisons, Medicaid, and mental health. And it failed in the House because most people want to see it all go to education. I just can’t imagine why a lottery bill would come back during a special session because I’m not sure what has changed since it failed in the House this last time. I mean, unless something has changed that I’m not aware of, I don’t think you bring back a lottery in this special session.”

Ward said he did not see the need for increased revenue to solve the prison problem, noting the significant increase in funding for the Department of Corrections already.

“I think the money is already here,” Ward replied. “I really do. I don’t think you need any kind of increase in revenue. I mean, good gracious we gone from a $380 million budget for prisons just a few years ago. Today we’re at $560 million-$580 million. I don’t think you need to do any more revenue. I think it’s how you handle policy within the prison and how you handle the policy with sentencing.”

@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.