By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Thursday, March 19 UAB Athletics made national headlines with its men’s basketball team’s shocking closing seconds victory 60 to 59 over highly ranked Iowa State in the first round of the NCAA basketball tournament.
UAB athletics super fan and State Representative Jack Williams (R from Vestavia) submitted a bill in the Alabama legislature demanding that the Board of Trustees maintain a football program at the University of Alabama campus in Birmingham for as long as they maintain one in their flagship Tuscaloosa campus.
Rep. Jack Williams announced on Facebook on Thursday: “This morning at 11:40am, I introduced three bills to the House:
• HB339, with 63 co-sponsors, calls for ethics training for public university board members
• HB340, with 41 co-cosponsors, calls for a restructuring of the University of Alabama Board of Trustees.
• HB341, with 38 co-sponsors, calls for returning football to UAB.”
The Synopsis of HB341 reads: “Existing law does not require the University of Alabama System to establish and maintain intercollegiate football at its campus located in Birmingham. This bill would require the University of Alabama System, so long as it has a football program at its Tuscaloosa campus, to establish and maintain intercollegiate football at its campus located in Birmingham.”
The bill requires that the, “The intercollegiate football program maintained at the Birmingham campus shall be funded at an appropriate level to participate in the Football Bowl Series Division, or its successor. It shall not be a requirement that the football program participate in a Power 5 Conference, but shall at the university’s option participate in the same conference as all other intercollegiate sports offered at the university.”
HB340 is an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901. It renames the Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama to the Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama System. It also revises the makeup of the board to include additional members from areas of the state in which a campus of the university system is located. It also decreases the number of consecutive six-year terms of office a member may serve from three to two, and specifies where the office for the system and the chancellor of the system may be located.
According to HB340, the University of Alabama System Board of Trustees shall be comprised of all of the following members: “(1) Two members from each congressional district in the state, an additional member from the congressional district which includes the site of the first campus of the university, the superintendent of education, and the governor. (2) One member from each congressional district in the state in which a campus of the university system is located. (3) One member who is appointed by majority vote of the governing body of any municipality in which a campus of the university system is located. (4) One member who is appointed by majority vote of the governing body of any county in which a campus of the university system is located. (5) One member representing the alumni of each campus of the university system who is appointed by the Governor from a list of five names submitted by each of the respective campus alumni associations. (6) One member from the state at-large who is appointed by the Lieutenant Governor. (7) One member from the state at-large who is appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives. (8) One member from the state at-large who is appointed by the President Pro Tempore of the Senate. (9) The State Superintendent of Education. (10) The Governor, who shall be ex officio president of the board.”
The current members of the board of trustees would be allowed to continue to serve until their terms expire under existing law and their successors shall be elected and confirmed. “The committee shall ensure that appointments are solicited from all constituencies, are inclusive, and reflect the racial, gender, and economic diversity of the state. (h) No trustee shall receive any pay or emolument other than his or her actual expenses incurred in the discharge of his duties.”
The bill also requires that: “The office of the University of Alabama System and that of the Chancellor of the University of Alabama System, should a chancellor be employed, shall be located in the largest municipality within a county in which a campus of the university system is located.”
The final bill, HB339, “Would require currently serving and future trustees to complete mandatory training on the State Ethics Law, board governance, and relevant accreditation standards. This bill would also subject currently serving and future trustees to the State Ethics Law and would require each to annually file a statement of economic interests with the State Ethics Commission.”
Tuesday, December 2, University of Alabama in Birmingham announced that the football team was being shut down along with the ladies’ rifle and bowling teams.
University President Ray Watts said at the time, “More than a year ago, UAB began the largest, most comprehensive strategic planning process in the university’s history. Designed to identify areas of excellence and set priorities for investment and growth, this strategic review has empowered leaders across campus to think critically about how to best invest resources and position UAB as a premier and sustainable institution for the future.”
Watts said that the 2014-2015 academic year was the final season for UAB football, bowling and rifle. President Watts said that UAB will honor scholarships for those on scholarship athletes who choose to stay at UAB beyond this season, and will honor the coaches’ contracts. Watt said that. “When a program is discontinued, per NCAA bylaws, players who decide to leave UAB to play elsewhere will not be required to sit out of competition the following season.”
President Watts said that investments in football were unlikely to produce a sustainable return relative to the required investment. President Watts claims that UAB already subsidizes $20 million of the roughly $30 million annual Athletic Department budget.
Currently the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the University of Alabama in Huntsville all share a Chancellor and a Board of Trustees with the original University of Alabama campus in Tuscaloosa.
Rep. Jack Williams said at the time, “Today is a sad day – but for those of us who love UAB – we cannot quit. We must be even more vigilant because today’s surrender has signaled to the Board that they can strip away from this campus whatever they desire. Others must stand and fight before this great university is reduced to only a medical school and an extension center. Our community must not lose sight of UAB’s potential greatness – even if those at its helm seem to lose heart.” “The negative repercussions of this day will be felt on the UAB campus and in the Birmingham community for generations to come.”
President Watts said that UAB can not be competitive in the rapidly evolving NCAA landscape and the soaring costs associated with maintaining a competitive team. President Watts’ decision was based on a Carr and Associates study that Free UAB activists have disputed.
UAB’s basketball team will play UCLA on Saturday Morning, March 21. The winner will advance to the Sweet 16.
Hash Tags: UAB, Birmingham, football, UAB athletics, sports, University of Alabama System Board of Trustees, lack of leadership, Rep. Jack Williams
Alabama DHR announces grants providing temporary assistance for stabilizing child care
The Alabama Department of Human Resources announced on Friday a new grant program to provide assistance to licensed child care providers in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Temporary Assistance for Stabilizing Child Care, or TASCC, grant program’s purpose is to stabilize the number of child care providers that are open and providing services, as well as encourage providers to reopen.
DHR is now accepting applications for TASCC grants. The deadline to apply is August 7, 2020. The total grant amounts will be based on each provider’s daytime licensed capacity with a base rate of $300 per child.
To be eligible for a grant, licensed providers must be open or plan to reopen no later than August 17, 2020, and continue to remain open for a period of one year from the date of receiving the grant award. As of this week, 1,306 of Alabama’s 2,448 child care facilities were open in the state.
“We are proud to offer this program as a support and an incentive to an important sector of our economy. These grants will give the support many providers need to reopen and assist those already open,” said Alabama DHR Commissioner Nancy Buckner. “This program is going to be vital for our child care numbers to reach the level required to provide adequate services as parents return to work. We have already made significant strides in reopening facilities over the past several months; in April only 14 percent were open while now 53 percent are open.”
These grants will provide support for paying employees, purchasing classroom materials, providing meals, purchasing cleaning supplies, providing tuition relief for families, as well as other facility expenses.
DHR recommends child care providers read all guidance prior to submitting a TASCC application. Child care providers need to complete the application to determine the estimated grant amount. Grant applications will be processed as they are received and grants awarded once approved.
An online fillable application is available for the TASCC grant at www.dhr.alabama.gov/child-care/. The application must include an Alabama STAARS Vendor Code in order to be processed. For questions regarding the application, please email DHR at [email protected].
Gov. Ivey awards grant for new system to aid child abuse victims
Gov. Kay Ivey has awarded a $375,000 grant to establish a statewide network that will ensure that victims of child abuse receive immediate and professional medical care and other assistance.
The grant will enable the Children’s of Alabama and the University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Pediatrics to collaborate with the Alabama Network of Children Advocacy Centers in creating the Child Abuse Medical System.
“Child abuse is a horrendous crime that robs children of their youth and can negatively affect their future if victims do not receive the proper professional assistance,” Ivey said. “I am thankful for this network that will ensure children get the professional attention they need and deserve.”
The medical system will be a coordinated statewide resource that includes pediatric physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses and other medical professionals along with specialized sexual assault nurse examiners.
The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs is administering the grant.
“ADECA is pleased to join with Gov. Ivey and those dedicated people who are part of the Child Abuse Medical System to support these children at a time they need it most,” said ADECA Director Kenneth Boswell.
Ivey notified Tom Shufflebarger, CEO of Children’s of Alabama, that the grant had been approved.
ADECA manages a range of programs that support law enforcement, economic development, recreation, energy conservation and water resource management.
U.S. Attorney Jay Town announces resignation
Jay Town, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, on Friday announced his resignation and plans to work at a Huntsville defense contractor and cybersecurity solutions company.
Town’s resignation will be effective Wednesday, July 15, according to a press release.
“After much thoughtful prayer and great personal consideration, I have made the decision to resign as the United States Attorney of the Northern District of Alabama. I have tendered my resignation to Attorney General William Barr. General Barr expressed his gratitude for my service to the Department of Justice and to the Northern District and, despite having hoped I would continue in my role, understood and respected my decision,” Town said in a statement.
“I am extremely grateful to President Trump, to whom I also tendered a letter, for his special trust and confidence in me to serve as the U.S. Attorney. It was an honor to be a part of this Administration with an unrivaled class of United States Attorneys from around the nation. I will forever remain thankful to those who supported my nomination and my tenure as the U.S. Attorney,” Town continued.
Town said his job with the unnamed Huntsville defense contractor and cybersecurity solutions company is to begin later this year, and the company is to announce his position “in a few weeks.”
“The Attorney General of the United States will announce my replacement in the coming days or weeks,” Town said in the release.
Town has served in his position since confirmation by the U.S. Senate in August 2017. Prior to that appointment, Town was a prosecutor in the Madison County District Attorney’s office from 2005 until 2017.
Attorney General William Barr in a statement Friday offered gratitude for Town’s three years of service.
“Jay’s leadership in his District has been immense. His contributions to the Department of Justice have been extensive, especially his work on the China Initiative and most recently as a Working Group Chair on the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice. I appreciate his service to our nation and to the Justice Department, and I wish him the very best,” Barr said in a statement.
The U.S. Justice Department in April 2019 notified Gov. Kay Ivey that the department’s lengthy investigation into the state’s prisons for men found systemic problems of violence, sexual assaults, drugs and corruption which are likely violations of the inmates’ Constitutional protections from cruel and unusual punishment.
Town’s office leads the discussions between the U.S Department of Justice and the state on the prison conditions.
Problems with violence, deaths and drugs in Alabama’s overcrowded, understaffed prisons have not markedly improved in the year’s since the U.S. Department of Justice released its report.
Alabama’s daily COVID-19 deaths second highest since start of pandemic
In the past two weeks the state recorded 190 coronavirus deaths, a 38 percent increase from the previous two weeks.
Alabama saw 35 deaths from COVID-19 on Friday, the second highest daily number of deaths since the pandemic began.
The previous record daily high was May 12, when the state recorded 37 coronavirus deaths. Prior to that, the high was on April 22, when Alabama saw 35 deaths from the virus. In the past two weeks the state recorded 190 coronavirus deaths, a 38 percent increase from the previous two weeks.
While cases have been surging since mid-June, deaths have largely remained stable. Deaths are considered a lagging indicator, meaning that it takes longer for deaths to begin rising after cases and hospitalizations begin rising.
“The fact that we’re seeing these sharp increases and hospitalization in cases over the past week or two is really concerning,” said UAB expert Dr. Jodie Dionne-Odom earlier this week. “And we expect, given the lag that we know there is between cases and hospitalization — about a two-week lag, and a three-week lag between cases and deaths — that we’re on a part of the curve that we just don’t want to be on in our state.”
It’s unclear whether this new rise in deaths will become a trend, or whether it is a one-day anomaly, but the 14-day average of deaths per day is now nearly as high as the previous peak on May 14 — weeks after the state hit its first “peak” in cases per day in late April. The previous high of the 14-day average of deaths per day was 16 on May 14. The average is now at 14 deaths per day, on average.
The uptick in deaths comes after days of record-high new daily COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. The state added 1,304 new COVID-19 cases Friday, down from Thursday’s record-high of 2,164, but the trend of rising daily cases has continued largely unabated since early June.
The 14-day average of daily tests was at an all-time high Friday, at 8,125, which was 308 more tests than the previous high, set Wednesday. The percent of tests that were positive also increased, however, so the new cases can’t be attributed solely to more testing.
The 14-day average of the percent positivity was 14.22 on Friday. Excluding Thursday’s figure, because the Alabama Department of Public Health didn’t publish total tests administered on Thursday, which threw off percent positive figures, Friday’s 14-day average was the highest it’s been since the beginning of the pandemic.
There were a few higher 14-day average percent positivity days in April, but those numbers were skewed as well, because ADPH wasn’t able to collect all testing data from commercial labs during that time period.
Along with surging new cases, the number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized on Thursday was higher than it’s been since the beginning of the pandemic. On Thursday 1,125 coronavirus patients were being treated in state hospitals, which was the fifth straight day of record current hospitalizations.
UAB Hospital’s COVID-19 Intensive care units were nearing their existing capacity earlier this week. The hospital has both a COVID ICU and a COVID acute care unit designated to keep patients separated from those who don’t have the virus, but it has more space in other non-COVID units should it need to add additional bed space.
Hospitals in Madison County this week are also seeing a surge of COVID-19 patients. Paul Finley, the mayor of the city of Madison, told reporters Wednesday that local hospitals were reporting record numbers.