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Redistricting Lawsuit Likely to End Today

Brandon Moseley

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By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

The fate of Alabama’s legislative 2012 redistricting plan will be decided by a panel of federal judges in Montgomery in a trial that is likely to conclude today (Tuesday).

Alabama state Representative Jim McClendon said on Facebook Tuesday August 13, “Senator Dial and I wrap up the Redistricting Trial today. He testified last Thursday, I testified yesterday, Monday. Hopefully today will be the final day of this endurance contest. The Legislative Black Caucus sued the State over the plan passed by the legislature and signed by the governor, so we are the defendants, having taken a big role in the constitutionally mandated task of redrawing House and Senate district lines. My expectation is that the court will rule in favor of our work.”

Both Houses of the Alabama Legislature passed decennial reapportionment plans in last year’s Special Session. Alabama State Senator Rodger Smitherman (D) from Birmingham opposed both the redistricting plans for the Alabama Senate and the Alabama House of Representatives. Sen. Smitherman told ‘The Alabama Political Reporter’ last year that he feared that all African-Americans in the state will be disenfranchised as a long term result of the new reapportionment plans.

Sen. Smitherman said, “What they have done is take African-American voters out of many of the districts that they are trying to change to be predominantly Republican districts that are Democratic districts now.” The Birmingham Democrat said, “They don’t ask you if you are Republican or Democrat they have just totally disenfranchised those voters to the point where they moved some of them to districts that are predominantly Republican and they are upset about it. Those people are totally disenfranchised. They will be at the mercy of that district.”

Sen. Smitherman said that the redistricting plan will result in Alabama no longer having a viable two-party system. Sen. Smitherman said that the reapportionment plan: “is designed to have a system that is split up where African-Americans are on one side (Democrats) and everybody else is on the other side (Republican)”….. “As a result you have segregation.”

Sen. Smitherman, and the Alabama Democrats as a group, claim that Republicans packed as many minority voters as possible into majority minority districts because most Alabama Blacks vote for Democrats, while most Alabama Whites vote for Republicans.  Increasing the percentage of White voters in the 27 majority white Senate Districts they clam increases the likelihood that Republicans will win those districts, leaving Alabama with one political party dominated by Whites and one political party that is dominated by Blacks.

Sen. Smitherman said, “Now you have a situation where 27 people (Senators representing majority white districts) are going to be ignoring the other 8 (Senators representing majority minority districts). All African-Americans in the state are going to be disenfranchised and then you are going to have an acceleration of the efforts to hinder African-Americans the opportunity to vote.”

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Article One, Section 2 of the United States Constitution calls for a national census every ten years. “Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct.”The Census is then used for redistricting Congress, the legislature, and state school board. The actual redistricting is performed by each individual state based on the numbers in the most recent Census. In Alabama the Permanent Committee on Redistricting is assigned the responsibility of performing this Constitutional role. The Permanent Committee on Redistricting is composed of nine Senate Republicans, two Senate Democrats, seven House Republicans, and four House Democrats. The distribution between the two political parties is based on their representation in their respective houses. After the election of 2010, the Republican Party won control of both the Alabama House and Senate. The goal of the Committee is to create fair districts; but redistricting is a political process. The Joint Chairmen of the Committee on Redistricting were Sen. Gerald Dial (R) from Lineville and Representative Jim McClendon (R) from Springville.

Rep. McClendon said on Facebook Tuesday that he would, “ Be glad to get freed up from this 3 year project and get on with my race for Senate.” Rep. McClendon is challenging state Senator Jerry Fielding (R) from Sylacauga in the 2014 Republican primary. Sen. Fielding was elected as a Democrat in 2010.

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Health

New COVID cases in Alabama increasing faster than 46 other states

Chip Brownlee

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Alabama reported more cases of COVID-19 last week than any other week since the pandemic began, and the increase in new cases reported last week compared to the previous week was higher than 46 other states and the District of Columbia.

An analysis of data collected by The COVID Tracking Project, a volunteer-run effort to track the pandemic, shows that only West Virginia, Maine and South Carolina reported a larger increase in new cases last week compared to the new cases they reported in the previous week.

According to The COVID Tracking Project’s data, Alabama recorded 2,556 new cases during the week ending Sunday, May 24, compared to 1,994 new cases during the previous week ending Sunday, May 17.  That’s an increase of 28 percent.

The Alabama Department of Public Health’s daily case totals show an increase of 17 percent last week over the previous week, which is still higher than 38 other states, according to the analysis performed on The COVID Tracking Project’s data.

COVID Tracking Project has a standardized method of capturing each state’s new cases from health departments, making it possible to compare the trajectories of each state. Twenty-four states and the District of Columbia saw new cases decline last week, while 25 states saw new cases increase last week compared to the previous week.

Compared to other states, testing showed no similar increase. The number of new tests reported in Alabama last week only grew 2 percent compared to the previous week, according to the COVID Tracking Project’s data. That’s lower than 31 other states.

APR‘s data showed an increase of 13 percent over the previous week, but that is still a smaller increase than 25 other states. Both our data and an analysis of The COVIDTracking Project’s data show the percent of total tests that are positive rose last week compared to the previous week.

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The Alabama Department of Public Health does not provide historical data for how many tests were performed on each day. Both APR and the COVID Tracking Project calculate test increases by tracking the change to the cumulative total of tests performed.

Several other Southern states also saw rising cases and no similar increase to tests performed. In Mississippi, new cases rose by 9 percent last week compared to the previous week while tests per week fell by 21 percent. In Tennessee, new cases rose 15 percent while tests per week declined 8 percent.

Georgia saw new cases rise 21 percent, but tests also rose by 22 percent. Florida, South Carolina and North Carolina also reported both rising cases and more tests compared to the previous week.

Cases have been rising in Alabama since the beginning of the month. Testing has also increased, and public health officials, including State Health Officer Dr. Harris, have said they are not sure if the increase in cases is directly attributable to more tests or more disease.

Some areas of the state, like Madison County and Lee County, have seen little or no rise in new cases, while others, like Montgomery County and Tuscaloosa County, are experiencing worsening outbreaks.

Gov. Kay Ivey lifted the state’s stay-at-home order on April 30 and has since relaxed restrictions twice more, saying the economics of the pandemic must be addressed. The state reported an unemployment rate of 12.9 percent last week, higher than during any point during the Great Recession.

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National

Monday is Memorial Day

Brandon Moseley

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Today, the last Monday in May, is the day we set aside to remember all of the many soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines who have died defending this country in this nation’s many wars over the last 245 years.

Memorial Day is a state and national holiday. There will be no mail service and banks, courthouses, and many government buildings, as well as many offices and businesses, will be closed today.

Many people have the day off and are spending the holiday with family and friends.

A number of Alabama leaders have released statements paying their respects to America’s fallen heroes.

“Memorial Day is a time for all of us to pause and remember the courageous Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice to defend this great nation,” said Congresswoman Martha Roby (R-Montgomery). “Everyone should take this opportunity to honor and reflect on those men and women in uniform who lost their lives fighting to protect the freedoms we enjoy. “

“I realize that Memorial Day is the unofficial kickoff to summer. However, I hope you will take time to remember what the holiday is truly about,” said Congressman Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville). “Veterans Day in November is about honoring all veterans, but Memorial Day is specifically for those who gave the ultimate sacrifice and died for our country.”

“On Memorial Day and every day, it’s important to remember and honor the sacrifice made by the members of our military – those who gave their lives in service to our country, the veterans who are still with us today and those who have passed, and the brave men and women who are currently wearing the uniform,” Rep. Roby said. “I extend my sincere condolences to those who lost a family member in the line of duty and my gratitude to those who served or are currently serving. America continues to shine as the Land of the Free, even in the midst of a global pandemic, because of the heroic men and women who sacrificed their lives for our country’s future and prosperity.”

“It’s great that we’re able to be out of our homes this Memorial Day,” said Second District Congressional District candidate Barry Moore. “Hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill are incredible, but as good as they are we don’t need to forget what this day is about. Memorial Day is our special day to honor those who have given their all in the service to our great nation, and May–Military Appreciation Month–is the month dedicated to letting our Veterans and serving military personnel know that we appreciate them and their service. As a Veteran from a family with a strong and proud history of service, and a new father-in-law to an Army Ranger 1st Lieutenant, this day and month have special meaning to me.”

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“I’m thankful we have a President whose example we can follow in honoring our fallen,” former State Rep. Moore continued. “In February, when President Trump traveled to Dover Air Force Base and saluted the coffins of Sgt. Javier Jaguar Gutierrez and Sgt. Antonio Rey Rodriguez when they returned home, he showed the reverence and respect these two young men were due. This Memorial Day we all need to be equally diligent in showing that respect for those who have borne the battle. Take time today to think about what this day means, and if you get the chance during the rest of this month, tell a Vet or serviceman or woman that you’re thankful for them. God Bless our troops and those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.”

“Together, our nation pays immortal tribute to the extraordinary courage, unflinching loyalty, and unselfish love, and supreme devotion of the American heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice,” said President Donald J. Trump (R) on Thursday. “It’s the ultimate sacrifice, and it is indeed. They laid down their lives to ensure the survival of American freedom. Their names are etched forever into the hearts of our people and the memory of our nation. And some of you, it’s been very close — very, very close. It’s very close to your heart. We’ll cherish them and our Gold Star families for all time. We take good care of them. They’re very special to us. Just as we’ll always remember the nearly 82,000 Americans missing in action.”

Here is a video that Aderholt and his team put together a few years ago to honor the fallen from Alabama’s 4th District.

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National

SEC clears path for member schools to resume athletics training on June 8

Brandon Moseley

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The Southeastern Conference announced on Friday, that voluntary in-person athletics activities may resume on Southeastern Conference campuses, at the discretion of each university, beginning June 8 under strict supervision of designated university personnel and safety guidelines developed by each institution.

The coronavirus crisis ended Spring sports such as baseball and softball and cost both men and women’s basketball teams most of their post-season play. Spring football camps were eliminated. No training has been allowed in on-campus athletics facilities since March 12. The SEC had suspended all athletics activities through May 31.

June 8 will begin a transition period that will allow student-athletes to gradually adapt to full training and sports activity after this recent period of inactivity. Each university has been instructed to develop plans that are consistent with state and local health directives. Under the new directive, certain activities will be permitted based on the ability to participate in controlled and safe environments, while also maintaining recommended social distancing measures.

The decision to resume athletics activities, which at this time is limited by the NCAA to voluntary activities supervised by strength and conditioning personnel, was made with the guidance of the Conference’s Return to Activity and Medical Guidance Task Force.

The task force was created by the SEC’s Presidents and Chancellors in April and is comprised of a cross-section of leading public health, infectious disease and sports medicine professionals from across the SEC’s 14 member institutions. The Task Force will remain active to provide continued advice and guidance to the SEC and its members as they prepare for a return to competition.

“The safe and healthy return of our student-athletes, coaches, administrators and our greater university communities have been and will continue to serve as our guiding principle as we navigate this complex and constantly-evolving situation,” said SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey. “At this time, we are preparing to begin the fall sports season as currently scheduled, and this limited resumption of voluntary athletic activities on June 8 is an important initial step in that process. Thanks to the blueprint established by our Task Force and the dedicated efforts of our universities and their athletics programs, we will be able to provide our student-athletes with far better health and wellness education, medical and psychological care and supervision than they would otherwise receive on their own while off campus or training at public facilities as states continue to reopen.”

As part of its recommendations, the Task Force prepared a series of best practices for screening, testing, monitoring, tracing, social distancing and maintaining cleaned environments. These recommendations are to serve as a roadmap for each school prior to and upon the return of student-athletes to their campuses.

“While each institution will make its own decisions in creating defined plans to safely return student-athletes to activity, it is essential to employ a collaborative approach that involves input from public health officials, coaches, sports medicine staff, sports performance personnel and student-athletes,” Sankey said. “Elements of the Task Force recommendations provided key guidance for determining the date of the return to activity.”

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The protocols include a three stage screening process that involves screening before student-athletes arrive on campus, within 72 hours of entering athletics facilities and on a daily basis upon resumption of athletics activities.

Testing of symptomatic team members (including all student-athletes, coaches, team support and other appropriate individuals) is part of the protocols.

It is recommended that schools immediately isolate team members who are under investigation or diagnosed with COVID-19. This is to be followed by contact tracing, following CDC and local public health guidelines.

Since most of the athletes have not been allowed to do anything but the most basic of workouts, there is to be a transition period that allows student-athletes to gradually adapt to full training and sport activity following the long period of inactivity.

During the month of June, NCAA regulations permit only strength and conditioning personnel to supervise voluntary on-campus athletics activities in the sports of football and men’s & women’s basketball. A current waiver that permits eight hours of virtual film review has been extended through June 30 for football and basketball.

Consistent with NCAA regulations, organized practices and other required physical activities remain prohibited in all sports. A previously announced suspension of in-person camps and coaches clinics conducted by SEC institutions remains in effect until July 31.

Many SEC schools hope to play their football seasons this fall on schedule. While football fall camps don’t begin until early August, coaches says that student-athletes need to be improving their strength, speed, and agility to get in the appropriate physical condition so that they can compete in fall camps. Without that strength and conditioning, coaches feel that more players could get injured in those practices.

On Thursday, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R) issued a new Safer at Home order that allowed schools to begin using their athletics facilities for strength and conditioning. Schools and educational institutions will be allowed to open subject to social-distancing and sanitation rules and guidelines on June 1. Gyms across the state were allowed to reopen subject to social distancing and occupancy limits on May 24.

The relaxation of the health rules mean that the athletes will be able to compete in football seasons resume. It is still not known if there will be fans in the stands for those games, though University of Alabama Athletics Director Greg Byrne recently said that that is the school’s plan. Both the University of Alabama and Auburn University are members of the Southeastern Conference.

Fox Sports reported on Friday that if the 2020 football season was not played, the members of the ‘power five’ conferences (including the SEC), would lose over $5 billion in revenue. The cost cutting moves necessary to balance budgets after that hit would end virtually all non-revenue generating sports, including every women’s sport, on campus. Athletics budgets were already hit from the loss of NCAA basketball tournament revenue.

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Economy

Talladega will hold GEICO 500 on June 21 without fans in the stands

Brandon Moseley

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The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) has announced that the GEICO 500, MoneyLion 300 and General Tire 200 automobile races have all been rescheduled for the weekend of June 20 to 21.

They will be raced without fans in attendance.

“We are excited that NASCAR has announced the rescheduling of our April race weekend to June 20-21,” said Talladega Superspeedway President Brian Crichton. “While we will have cars on track, in the interest of the health and safety of all involved, including fans, NASCAR will be running our three races – the GEICO 500, MoneyLion 300 and General Tire 200 – without fans in attendance in accordance with the State of Alabama, CDC and public health agency standards and protocols.”

The Cup Series GEICO 500 will be held on Sunday, June at 2:00 pm CST.

The Xfinity series MoneyLion 300 will be held on Saturday, June 20 at 4:30 pm CST.

The ARCA series General Tire 200 will be held on Saturday, June 20, 2020 at 1:00 pm CST.

“NASCAR, like Talladega Superspeedway, prides itself in being fan-friendly, and the fans drive everything we do,” Crichton said. “The decision to race without fans is focused on the long-term health of you and our sport. NASCAR has a great respect for the responsibility that comes with a return to competition, and after thorough collaboration with public officials, medical experts and state and federal officials, NASCAR has implemented a comprehensive plan to ensure the health and safety of the competitors and surrounding communities.”

“For our June 20-21 events, we hope you will enjoy watching and listening to the 3- and 4-wide racing at the sport’s Biggest and Most Competitive track via our broadcast partners FOX, FS1 and MRN Radio,” Crichton concluded. “We will persevere through this together.”

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Ticketholders may elect to receive a credit for the full amount paid plus an additional 20 percent of total amount paid to apply towards a future event, including, but not limited to, grandstand seating, infield, camping, fan hospitality, and Talladega Garage Experience. The 120 percemt event credit can be used in a single transaction during the remainder of the 2020 season and entire 2021 season for a NASCAR sanctioned event at any NASCAR-owned track, subject to availability. Elections for an event credit or refund must be submitted by June 14, 2020.
Ticketholders may apply here:
https://www.talladegasuperspeedway.com/Vanity-Pages/2020/Assistance.aspx

Motorsports are the only major pro sports league that has resumed play after the coronavirus global pandemic struck in mid-March. The NBA is considering a proposal to playout the remainder of their season and playoffs sequestered at the Wide World of Sports complex at Disneyworld in Orlando, Florida with no fans present. The NHL is in the process of considering a similar proposal to finish this year’s hockey season. Major League Baseball has not played a single game of their season yet. MLB owners have made a proposal that the league play an 80 game season without fans present. The idea is meeting with skepticism from MLB players due to a controversial proposal capping players salaries for this season in a 50:50 revenue sharing agreement. The proposal that would dramatically reduce MLB players’ salaries for this season. Horse racing and mixed martial arts have held some sporting events in recent weeks.

NASCAR has already held two races at Darlington and one at Charlotte after resuming racing on May 17. Kevin Harvik won the Real Heroes 400 driving a Ford and Denny Hamlin won the Toyota 500 driving a Toyota in the first two Cup Series races since NASCAR resumed racing after a ten week hiatus. NASCAR intends to run a 36 race season this year.

Motorsports are the only major professional sports league played at a major league level in the state of Alabama. In addition to the Talladega Superspeedway, the state is also home to the Barber Motorsports Parks near Leeds. The Barber facility hosts both professional motorcycle racing and the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, a NTT Indycar series event. That event was cancelled due to efforts to shut down the economy to fight the spread of the coronavirus.

The COVID-19 global pandemic has already killed 98,705 Americans through Sunday morning.

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