Connect with us

News

Senate Committee Heats Up

Susan Britt

Published

on

By Susan Britt
Alabama Political Reporter 

A bill drew fire from Senator Vivian Davis Figures (D-Mobile) in the Finance and Taxation, Education Committee on Wednesday. Senator Phil Williams (R-Rainbow City) was presenting House Bill 159 regarding tax incentive packages for retaining and drawing new manufacturing jobs to Alabama.

Williams had read the role of senators who had voted for this same bill last year and Figures name was included as a “yes” vote. 

Figures said that last year Williams had touted the bill to save Goodyear [in his district of Gadsden] and that is why she had voted for the bill.

When confronted Williams said, “I was extremely proud to stand up last year and say that one of my first pieces of sensitive legislation, that I was able to get bi-partisan support. That makes a huge difference to me. It’s great when you can say you have passed a piece of legislation but it is greater when you can pass a piece of legislation that both sides of the isle said, ‘We believe in that and we are going to sign with you.’ And I don’t mind reading the names over and over again because it meant a lot to me to have you and Senator Bedford and the other members of the Democratic Caucus to sign on with me.

“Now was I there just to save Goodyear? Absolutely not. Now did they have some imputis in my passion for the bill? Absolutely. One thousand, six hundred and fifty-six jobs are at the Goodyear plant in Alabama. Why would I not be willing to do something for that?”

Public Service Announcement

Williams went on to say that this is far bigger than Goodyear but also that he will fight for his Goodyear plant and their employees as well as the $1.8 million impact that it brings to the state of Alabama. He said this bill has a much broader reach. He said that it will bring jobs to every senator’s district in this state eventually.

Williams said that his motivation was not only for Goodyear and that anybody that votes for the bill this year would not be voting for “Goodyear and Phil.”

He said, “I think what we are talking about hear is that it comes down substantively to jobs in Alabama.”

Figures asked, “But my question is that you said it was the same exact bill. Now are you saying that the bill last year basically was focused on Goodyear, but this year this bill is focusing on all businesses?”

ADVERTISEMENT

“No. Last year I did not say that the bill was only focused on Goodyear,” said Williams.

“But that is how you sold it,” replied Figures.

“No. I don’t recall ever selling the bill,” said Williams who also told Chairman Trip Pittman (R-Daphne) that he did not remember that being a part of the discussion.

Figures continued, “All I am trying to do is to get to the fact that you sold this bill as one thing but now you are trying to say that Democrats are in support of this same bill which is not the truth, Senator.”

Chairman Pittman interrupted what was becoming a heated discussion saying, “I also was a signature last year and certainly the position in the process was late in the session. I think a lot of us that have been around understood that the bill’s chances of becoming law at that late date was probably limited. I know that Senator Williams did express some concerns about the employer in his district. But certainly, this bill last year did address, and intended to address broader across the state. I want to applaud Senator Williams about the openness with which he is dealing with this bill this year.

“I would like to cease with the ‘last year and the people that sponsored it because I will echo what Senator Sanders and Senator Figures said, that I know that I didn’t study all of the details of the bill and the ramifications and the impact.”

He continued saying that he thought that keeping this bill in simple terms of the Education Trust Fund and a jobs bill and the economic impacts. He said that the state unemployment is coming down and that they should look closer at giving job incentives “de facto” and of course “we would like for these jobs to come here with no incentives” then the state could get more revenue to operate of because “we don’t want to increase taxes.”

Chairman Pittman said that he thought that HB159 is a well thought out bill and that there are certainly consequences that no one will ever fully understand the cost and the benefits until down the road.

Chairman Pittman moved the public hearing on much to the objection of Figures and the request for chairman’s recognition by Senator Brian Taylor (R-Prattville).

After Department of Commerce Director Greg Canfield spoke to the committee, Taylor asked to be recognized. He said, “What happened a few minutes ago was extremely inappropriate and I’ll say why in a minute but Senator Williams and any other senator is entitled to read off a list of sponsors who have sponsored his legislation in the past. He is entitled to ask for and inquire as to what their concerns are with the bill this year….I commend whoever sponsored it last year, there was the acceptance of responsibility for that. I will recognize that I have sponsored and co-sponsored legislation that I have had questions about after the fact.

“What I saw go on here was one senator, I was going to say insinuate, but it was a direct allegation, Senator [Figures]  that Senator Williams deliberately misled you about a bill and made you believe that is was only of local application,” he directed his remarks at Figures.

He continued, “Mr. Chairman, we are all capable of reading legislation. There was nothing in Senator Williams’ bill last year that was of local application or was specific to Goodyear. I believe that Senator Williams said that it was important to him because of his Goodyear issue. But I think to insinuate that he deliberately misled about us on this bill is wrong and inappropriate.”

Figures said, “How dare you try to admonish me. You are a senator just like me. You can say anything you want to say. Don’t say what I shouldn’t say. He called my name and I can at any time defend my name. Mr. Chairman, I will defend my name at any point.”

Henry Mabry and other AEA members who are in strong opposition to this bill populated the front row of the audience in the meeting.

 

Advertisement

Health

Alabama’s hospitalized COVID-19 patients Sunday at highest number since Sept. 2.

It’s a trend that has public health officials and hospital staff concerned that the state may be headed for another surge.

Eddie Burkhalter

Published

on

(STOCK PHOTO)

Alabama hospitals on Sunday were caring for 920 COVID-19 inpatients, the highest number of patients since Sept. 2 and a 23 percent increase from a month ago. 

It’s a trend that has public health officials and hospital staff concerned that the state may be headed for another  surge just as the regular flu season begins to fill up hospital beds. 

Alabama state health officer Dr. Scott Harris by phone Friday called the rising new cases and hospitalizations “worrisome.”

Alabama’s seven-day average of daily hospitalized COVID-19 patients was 864 on Sunday, the highest it’s been since Sept. 8. State hospitals saw a peak of COVID-19 inpatients on Aug. 6, when 1,613 patients were being cared for. 

The state added 1,079 new confirmed and probable cases on Sunday, and Alabama’s 14-day average of new daily cases hit 1,358 Sunday, the highest it’s been since Aug. 13. Two “data dumps” to the Alabama Department of Public Health of older confirmed cases Thursday and Friday elevated the daily counts on those days, but after weeks of daily cases hovering around 700 and 800, the state now regularly sees more than 1,000 cases a day. 

Public Service Announcement

The older test results skew the state’s percent positivity, but Alabama’s 14-day average of percent positivity on Sunday was 20 percent. Just prior to the addition of those older cases, the 14-day average was 15 percent. Public health officials say it should be at or below five percent or cases are going undetected.

As cases continue to rise, the number of tests being performed statewide continue to decline, which is increasing Alabama’s percent positivity rate. The 14-day average of daily tests was 6,619 on Sunday — a 5 percent decrease from two weeks ago. 

ADVERTISEMENT

There have been 2,866 confirmed and probable COVID-19 deaths statewide. The state’s 14-day average of daily confirmed deaths was 14 on Sunday, up from 12 two weeks ago. 

The United States on Saturday recorded its second highest day of new cases since the start of the pandemic, with 83,718 new cases, according to Johns Hopkins University. Saturday’s peak was just 39 cases fewer than the country’s all-time daily high, set on Friday. As of Sunday, 225,061 people have died from COVID-19 in the U.S.

Continue Reading

Elections

Trump Truck and boat parades this weekend

Brandon Moseley

Published

on

Trump boat parade

As Election Day draws near, Alabama Republicans are excited about promoting the re-election of Donald J. Trump as President and the election of Tommy Tuberville for U.S. Senate. This weekend two pro-President Trump events are happening in the state. There will be a truck parade from Ashland to Phenix City on Saturday sponsored by the Clay County Republican Party, while there will also be a boat parade on Wilson Lake in the Shoals sponsored by the Colbert County Republican Party on Sunday.

The pickup trucks will assemble at the Ashland Industrial Park in Clay County, 8240 Hwy 9, Ashland. There is a pre-departure rally at 10:00 a.m. central standard time. The trucks will depart at 11:00 a.m. and then proceed on a parade route that will take them into the bitterly contested swing state of Georgia. The Trump Pickup Parade will wind through east Alabama and West Georgia traveling through LaGrange and Columbus before concluding near the Alabama/Georgia line in Phenix City, 332 Woodland Drive, Phenix City at approximately 2:00 p.m. central time. Speakers will begin at 3:00. Trump flags will be on sale at the event.

The Phenix Motorsports Park will be hosting what sponsor hope could possibly the world’s largest Pickup Tuck parade in U.S. history that is routing over 50 mile through Georgia in effort to “pickup” President Trump’s numbers in GA.

A number dignitaries have been invited to address the Phenix City rally, including Coach Tuberville. Former State Sen. Shadrack McGill, Trump Victory Finance Committee member former State Rep. Perry O. Hooper Jr., and Paul Wellborn, the President and CEO of the largest Family owned Kitchen Cabinet manufacture in the USA are among the featured speakers who have committed to speak at the event.

Entertainment will be provided by: Charity Bowden, an up and coming country music singer who was the runner up on “The Voice”. Charity will sing ‘I am Proud to be an American’ as well as songs from her Voice performances. The McGill Girls will also perform. The three beautiful and talented sisters will be singing patriotic songs in three part harmony. Geoff Carlisle, a professional DJ will be keeping the crowd pumped with music and entertainment.

Following the speakers and the entertainment there will Trump truck-vs- Joe Bidden truck races down the drag strip for the finale.

The Northwest Alabama boat parade will be on Sunday. The boats will gather at 2:00 p.m. near Turtle Point and then the flotilla will parade around the open waters of Wilson Lake til 3_00 p.m.. There will be a contest for best decorated Trump boats.

Public Service Announcement

Trump supporters have held a number of large boat parades across the state to show their support for the re-election of Pres. Trump.

Boat parade sponsors say that this parade will be: pro-American, pro-law enforcement, pro-military.

Continue Reading

Health

COVID-19 hospitalizations, new cases continue to rise

Eddie Burkhalter

Published

on

COVID-19 Corona Influenza Virus Molecules Image Stock Photo

The number of rising hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Alabama is a concerning sign of a possible coming surge of the disease, state health experts said Friday. Alabama hospitals were caring for 888 coronavirus patients Friday, the highest number since Sept 9. 

UAB Hospital was caring for around 80 COVID-19 inpatients Friday afternoon, said Dr. Rachael Lee, an infectious disease specialist at UAB, speaking to reporters Friday. UAB Hospital hasn’t had that many coronavirus inpatients since Aug. 18, when the disease was surging statewide.

“We have been dealing with this since March, and I think it’s easy for us to drop our guard,” Lee said. 

Alabama added 3,852 new coronavirus cases on Friday, but 1,287 of them were older positive antigen tests, conducted in June through October and submitted to ADPH by a facility in Mobile, according to the department. Still, Alabama’s daily case count has been increasing, concerning health officials already worried that as the weather turns colder and the flu season ramps up, Alabama could see a surge like the state had in July.

Alabama’s 14-day average of new daily cases was 1,247 on Friday, the highest it’s been since Sept 4. Over the last 14 days, Alabama has added 17,451 new COVID-19 cases.

Public Service Announcement

Friday’s inclusion of those older positive test results throws off the day’s percent positivity, by Thursday the state’s percent of tests that were positive was nearly 16 percent. Public health officials say it should be at or below five percent or cases are going undetected.

The state added 16 COVID-19 deaths on Friday, bringing to total confirmed deaths statewide to 2,859. Over the last two weeks, 206 deaths were reported in the state. Alabama’s 14-day average of new daily deaths on Friday was 15.

ADVERTISEMENT

Alabama state health officer Dr. Scott Harris told APR by phone Friday called the rising new cases and hospitalizations “worrisome.”

Harris noted the data dump of older confirmed cases in Friday’s data, but said “but nevertheless, I think it’s clear our numbers are going up.”

Harris said it’s not yet clear what’s causing the continued spread, but said it may be due at least in part to larger private gatherings. ADPH staff has mentioned a few outbreaks association with such gatherings, but Harris said it’s hard to know for certain if that’s the major driver in the state’s rising numbers.

“It’s football season and the holidays are coming up and school is back in session,” Harris said. “I think people are just not being as safe as they were.”

Harris noted that on ADPH’s color-coded, risk indicator dashboard, red counties, which denotes counties with rising cases and percent positivity, the 17 red counties on Friday were distributed across the state.

“So there’s not one event, or even a handful of events. It seems like there’s just a lot of things happening in a lot of places,” Harris said.

Alabama’s rising numbers are mirrored in many states. The U.S. reported more than 71,600 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, nearing the country’s record highs, set in July.

Continue Reading

News

Birmingham approves $1.3 million contract for real-time crime center technology

Woodfin repeated that facial recognition capabilities will not be used in accordance with the contract.

John H. Glenn

Published

on

(STOCK PHOTO)

The Birmingham City Council approved a five-year, $1.3 million contract with Motorola this week to provide new technology for the police department’s real-time crime center amid unease and public concern over the potential use of facial recognition software within the new systems.

Mayor Randall Woodfin insisted in his remarks made before the council that the new technology is meant to integrate existing hardware and technology inside the real-time crime center. “You’re not buying any additional new equipment,” he said, “You’re buying something to integrate all those systems.”

The software suite includes Motorola Solutions’s CommandCentral Aware, a system that aggregates video, image and other data information into one interface, and BriefCam, a “video synopsis” system that will further integrate and analyze information from Birmingham’s ShotSpotter systems, public cameras and police body cameras.

Briefcam offers facial recognition capabilities, which was the main concern of community members speaking before the council, and the risk that use of the technology could disproportionately affect Black people. Facial recognition technology has a record of racial bias and misidentifies Black people at rates five to 10 times higher than white people.

“Despite assurances that there will not be facial recognition implemented at this phase that does not prevent it from being implemented in the future,” said Joseph Baker, Founder of I Believe in Birmingham and one of the Birmingham residents voicing concern on the proposal. “I believe that this software, if fully implemented, can easily lead to violations of unreasonable searches.”

Another resident who spoke against the resolution was Byron Lagrone, director of engineering at medical software solutions company Abel Healthcare Enterprises. Lagrone pointed to IBM and Amazon as examples of companies that have halted or abandoned facial recognition and object tracking software altogether over racial bias concerns.

“The prevailing attitude, among technical people is this technology is not effective, and it causes high amounts of harm for next to no gain,” Lagrone said.

Public Service Announcement

Woodfin repeated that facial recognition capabilities will not be used in accordance with the contract.

“It’s explicit in this contract that facial recognition will not be used,” Woodfin said, “[If] facial recognition wants to be used in the future of this city. It would have to be approved by this body. … The mayor’s office or the police department doesn’t have unilateral power to use facial recognition. That is not part of what our contractual relationship is with Motorola.”

Woodfin also clarified that the total $1.3 million price of the contract will not be paid as a lump sum but spread out over the five-year commitment.

ADVERTISEMENT

The city council voted 8 to 1 to approve the contract, with District 8 Councilman Steven Hoyt speaking in favor of the use of facial recognition capabilities.

“You can’t say, ‘I’m going to build a house but I’m not going to use the restroom,’” Hoyt said. “If it’s in the house, you’re going to use the restroom. … If it has the capability of facial recognition, guess what’s going to happen? You’re going to use it. I’m going to vote for it because I know we’ve got to have every tool we can garner to fight crime, because it’s out of hand.”

Hoyt also suggested a review of the information collected by the new system apparatus.

“I do think, for the public’s sake, we need to have some way we review that and see how it’s being used,” Hoyt said. “We need that to go along with this.”

District 3 Councilwoman Valerie A. Abbott — who said she was the victim of a burglary the day before the vote — echoed the mayor’s insistence that the facial recognition capabilities would not be deployed unless authorized by the city council, reading a letter from Motorola stating “in order to enable facial recognition, Motorola will require an addendum or change order to the contract,” which would have to come before a public meeting of the city council.

“I too would not want facial recognition,” Abbot said, “I’m voting in favor of this because the majority of my constituents are telling me they want more and better policing, capture of criminals, prevention of crime.”

District 5 Councilman Darrell O’Quinn was the lone no vote among the near-unanimous city council, stating that he had “some reservations about how we’re doing this and will vote my conscience.” 
Later, O’Quinn was quoted in BirminghamWatch, saying his vote reflected his concerns about “taking on a new debt obligation in the midst of a projected $63 million shortfall in revenue.”

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement