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Facebook to build $750 million data center in Huntsville

Brandon Moseley

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Thursday, Gov. Kay Ivey announced that Facebook will invest $750 million to build a data center in Huntsville, creating 100 high-paying jobs. Ivey made the announcement during a ceremony at the Huntsville Madison County Chamber of Commerce and was joined by Facebook representatives and local leaders.

“Every day, millions of people around the world use Facebook’s products, and this new Alabama data center will soon play a role in keeping the company’s popular platforms running flawlessly,” Ivey said. “Facebook has found a great location in Sweet Home Alabama, and we’ll do our best to help the company grow and prosper here.”

Once the data center is up and operational it will add about 100 jobs to the area.

U.S. Senator Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, praised Facebook’s decision to invest $750 million to build a data center in Huntsville, Alabama:

“Facebook’s decision to build a new data center in Huntsville is evidence that Alabama is and continues to be open for business,” said Senator Shelby. “North Alabama is widely acknowledged for its growing technological capabilities, and I am proud that this highly successful company has recognized the potential of locating in the area. This is a significant opportunity for Madison County, and I look forward to partnering with Facebook and welcoming the company to our great state.”

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The Huntsville City Council granted unanimous approval earlier this year for Facebook’s project entity, Starbelt LLC, to purchase 340 acres at $8.5 million in North Huntsville Industrial Park. Congressman Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville, said on social media, “Welcome to Huntsville, Facebook.”

“We are excited to be joining the Huntsville community. As one of the fastest growing tech hubs in the country, we knew it would be a great location for our newest data center,” said Matt VanderZanden, director of site selection at Facebook. “We are committed to having a positive impact at the local level and look forward to a strong partnership with the Huntsville community.”

Alabama Department of Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield said that Facebook is a great addition to the state’s growing roster of high-tech companies.

“Facebook’s decision to locate its new, state-of-the-art data center in Huntsville reflects Alabama’s attractiveness to technology companies and marks another important chapter in the growth story of our tech sector,” Secretary Canfield said. “Facebook is a world-class company, and we look forward to building a lasting partnership that sets the stage for even more growth.”

U.S. Senator Doug Jones, D-Alabama, said on social media, “BIG news for Huntsville – and a testament to the great workforce and quality of life in north Alabama! Congratulations to the City of Huntsville!”

Economic developer Nicole Jones told the Alabama Political Reporter, “We are blessed to have a giant like Facebook to add to the Huntsville area’s portfolio, which is rich in technological history and development. An above-average wage of $80,000 and a presence in North Huntsville Industrial Park is a testament to teamwork between the public and private sector, economic diversification, and a quality of life within our state that national and global companies continue to recognize. Thank you, Facebook, for choosing Alabama for your newest data center.”

To facilitate the project, Facebook will receive an investment credit under the Alabama Jobs Act with an estimated value of $86.25 million, over 10 years. Total new revenue over thirty years from the Data Center is estimated to be $297.3 million that will be divided between the state, county and city.

The company said it chose Alabama and the Huntsville area because of quality of life, a pro-business environment, and a talented and available workforce.

The Huntsville City Council gave unanimous approval on May 24 for Facebook’s project entity, Starbelt LLC, to purchase 340 acres at $8.5 million in North Huntsville Industrial Park.

“Huntsville’s Gig City strategy to sustain our position as a leader in the knowledge economy has brought us a company that knows something about creating connections,” said Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle.

“Facebook has built its business on connecting friends to family, businesses to customers, and people to the world. Huntsville is proud to be the center of these connections with the construction of this data center.”

Madison County Commission Chairman Dale W. Strong said the north Alabama county continues to excel in job creation and in the diversification of its workforce.

“Today’s partnership with Facebook and their leadership once again shows our community is perfectly positioned for today’s high-tech market. While our mission here in North Alabama has never been clearer, I feel we are setting conditions for greater success for generations to come.”

“The Huntsville metro is being recognized internationally as a smart place to do business,” said Lucia Cape, the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber’s Senior Vice President of Economic Development. “Today’s announcement of a Facebook data center in North Huntsville is possible because our community has invested in the infrastructure, focused on quality of life, and made economic diversity a priority.”

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Elections

Activist calls for Attorney General Steve Marshall to be decertified or impeached

Bill Britt

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Across the state, lawyers, politicos and candidates are questioning how to deal with the dark money that flowed into the Republican Attorney General’s primary race.

North Alabama Republican activist Thomas J. Scovill is calling for Speaker Mac McCutcheon and the ALGOP steering committee to deny Republican primary winner—appointed Attorney General Steve Marshall—certification because of funds he received from the Republican Attorney Generals Association.

“As Steve Marshall’s campaign finance issue drags on, the embarrassment to Alabama government and the Alabama Republican Party (ALGOP) is growing,” Scovill wrote, McCutcheon. “Just as the Alabama Republican Party acted quickly and decisively on the issue of PSC candidate James Bonner’s decorum, now is the time to act decisively on the much more serious issue of lawbreaking by our attorney general.”

At issue is Marshall’s acceptance of $735,000 from RAGA’s 527 nonprofit organizations which Scovill and many others believe is a clear violation of Alabama’s Fair Campaign Practice Act. The state’s Republican legislative supermajority outlawed PAC-to-PAC transfers as part of its reform measures in 2010.

Marshall claims the donations are legal because of a loophole in state law. He also argues that federal law trumps state law in this instance.

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Scovill in his letter to Mac McCutcheon and a partition to ALGOP Chair Terry Lathan says Marshall’s claim is not only misleading but wrong.

“The question of federal jurisdiction raised by Marshall is a red herring,” says Scovill. “When it comes to campaign finance, those who play in federal elections have to comply with federal law, and those who play in Alabama elections have to comply with Alabama law. Those who play in both have to comply with both.”

A thorny advocate for campaign finance transparency, Scovill has fought and won several battles against those who tried to skirt the state’s FCPA.

During the primary election, Scovill backed outsider Chess Bedsole in the Republican Attorney General’s contest. In the runoff, he supported Marshall until he discovered the RAGA contributions.

“My choice for attorney general was Chess Bedsole,” said Scovill. “And just after the primary, I endorsed Steve Marshall, but then when I got back from a two week trip to Colorado on the Thursday before the runoff, I got caught up in all this PAC to PAC and 527 stuff and said, ‘Oh gee, I should have put some time into this back in February.’”

Marshall won the Republican nomination for Attorney General against Troy King who made the same accusation as Scovill. Montgomery County Judge James Anderson dismissed King’s partition to force Marshall to stop using RAGA funds, but that doesn’t mean the matter is settled.

Several legal minds say that Judge Anderson was wrong in his ruling. There are also those who want the issue decided before Marshall’s exception becomes a rule that opens the floodgates for out-of-state PACs to flood the state with dark money from hidden sources.

“Even with a preliminary review by the Alabama Ethics Commission, this controversy cannot be adjudicated through the office of the Alabama Attorney General for obvious reasons – Marshall is the incumbent attorney general,” writes Scovill. “With his nomination by the ALGOP pending, we are out of time for legal quibbles, alibis, and antics.”

In both his letter to Speaker McCutcheon and ALGOP, Scovill references PSC candidate James “Jim” Bonner who the Republican Party disqualified shortly before the primary.

As APR‘s Brandon Moseley reported in June, “Numerous voices in the party have expressed their concerns that Bonner being on the ticket could be an embarrassment that could turn out Democrats jeopardizing and drag down other races up and down the ticket.” The Alabama Republican Party Candidate Committee voted not to certify election results for Bonner even though he was already on the printed ballots. At the time, ALGOP Chair Lathan said, “When our state party chooses to take these steps, it is a serious and rare occurrence. We strongly believe that this is one of those solemn moments. This vote was carefully considered and was not taken lightly.”

Alabama Republican Party will not certify Bonner

Scovill contends the Republican committee must do the same with Marshall. “Marshall is embarrassing the Alabama Republican Party by violating both the spirit and letter of Alabama law,” wrote Scovill. “Republicans are responsible for pressing for enforcement of the law, enforcement which includes impeaching Attorney General Marshall if necessary. Ignoring the issue will create a major controversy Democrats will exploit in the coming general election to the detriment of every Republican on the ballot.”

In August, the State’s Ethics Commission will likely weigh-in on Scovill’s question — finding that RAGA’s actions were unlawful, but it’s the Republican Party that will ultimately have final say on if the PAC-to-PAC transfer ban applies to Democrats and Republicans alike.

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News

Group organizes to fight Muscle Shoals tax increase

Brandon Moseley

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A new Political Action Committee has launched in Muscle Shoals to oppose property tax increase.

The group opposes a 67 percent increase in the City’s Special Municipal property tax. The tax increase will be voted on by city voters on August 28th.

Stop the Home Tax PAC was recently launched to oppose the proposed 5-mil property tax increase in Muscle Shoals. The vote is being held at the request of the City School Board.

The opponents of the tax increase argue that it would represent a 67 percent increase in the current city-level special property tax for the school board. Opponents argue that a five mill increase would make Muscle Shoals one of the highest taxed municipalities in the region. Muscle Shoals would be at 21-mils, Tuscumbia 13.5 mils, Leighton 11 mils, Cherokee 11 mils, Littleville 11 mils, and Sheffield would be 10 mils.

“We have a number of concerns about this tax increase,” said Carlos Berry, the Chairman of Stop the Home Tax PAC. “Not only will this tax increase place a huge burden on our home owners, but it will hurt our and renters and small business owners as well. Homeowners will see their annual taxes increase, and many renters will likely see their costs increase over the next few years as the property owners struggle to adapt to the higher rates. It is simply impossible to raise the special property tax rate by 67% and not see rates increase.”

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Carlos Berry is a former business owner and former elected Colbert County Board of Education member who lives in Muscle Shoals. He has grandkids in the school system and a daughter who teaches there as well.

“I support public education 100%”, Berry said. “What I can’t support is raising taxes to unreasonable levels due to irresponsible financial decisions being made by the school board. As a former school board member, I know how to prioritize spending on capital improvement projects and ongoing operational costs so that government lives within its means just like the voters have to do.”

Scott Hunter, who is helping with the effort as well, expressed his concerns that most voters will not turnout in late August,

“Tax increase votes are often held using special elections at odd times, with the sponsors counting on low awareness and turnout to get the vote passed,” Hunter said. “Basically, if they can get their friends to show up and vote, the tax usually sails through unnoticed by the majority of voters.”

The Stop The Home Tax PAC say that they intend to raise awareness about the upcoming election in order to make sure that the voters of Muscle Shoals have an opportunity to have their voices heard on this important issue. In addition, STHTPAC will be advocating for voters to reject the tax increase and protect the small business owners, homeowners, and renters in Colbert County.

School officials claim that they need more money to fund capital improvements.

City of Muscle Shoals voters go to the polls on August 28.

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National

Mo Brooks, Gary Palmer Win FreedomFighter Award

Brandon Moseley

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Tuesday, Congressmen Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) and Gary Palmer (R-Hoover) were two of only 31 members of the U.S. House of Representatives awarded the prestigious 2017 FreedomFighter Award by FreedomWorks.

FreedomWorks is a leading conservative organization with more than six million members nationwide.
Only members of Congress who score better than 90 on the FreedomWorks scorecard receive the FreedomFighter Award.

Congressman Brooks’ FreedomWorks score was in the top four percent of all Congressmen in 2017.

Rep. Brooks said, “FreedomWorks is a leading organization in the conservative movement. I thank them for their work keeping members of Congress accountable and scoring key House floor votes which helps the American people better understand the impact of those votes. I was proud to receive the prestigious FreedomWorks 2017 FreedomFighter Award for my voting record in 2017.”

Congressman Palmer said, “I was honored to receive the Freedom Fighter Award this week from FreedomWorks.”

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FreedomWorks President, Adam Brandon, said, “The recipients of the FreedomFighter Award showed a commitment in 2017 to pro-growth economic policies and constitutionally limited government. We’re proud to recognize these senators and representatives. Our work is still cut out for us. Now that we have reduced some regulations and passed a historic tax reform bill, we must continue to pressure Congress to reduce spending to ensure that the prosperity we are seeing now is lasts into the future.”

FreedomWorks Vice President of Legislative Affairs, Jason Pye, said, “The winners of the 2017 FreedomFighter Award deserve applause. These members take tough votes, often going against the leadership of their own party, because they want to do what is right by taxpayers. But consistency is key. America is staring down massive budget deficits as a result of the fiscal profligacy of this Congress. We have to continue working to put our country on a sustainable path, repeal ObamaCare, promote free trade, and continue to rollback the regulatory state.”

“If America is to maintain its place as the greatest country in world history, more members of Congress must fight for the foundational principles that made America great,” Brooks said. “I’m fighting in Congress for those principles, and I’m glad to have a partner as effective as FreedomWorks in the fight.”

Congressman Mo Brooks represents the Fifth Congressional District of Alabama.

Congressman Gary Palmer represents the Sixth Congressional District of Alabama.

Both Brooks and Palmer are members of the House Freedom Caucus.

Both congressmen have Democratic general election opponents.

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Facebook to build $750 million data center in Huntsville

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