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Ivey signs day care bill in ceremonial signing

Brandon Moseley

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Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey held a ceremonial bill signing on Monday for House Bill 76, which would license certain day cares in the state.

VOICES for Alabama’s Children released a statement in support of the legislation which they claim will lead to safety improvements in child care centers across Alabama.

The Child Care Safety Act was passed by the legislature in March and was signed by Ivey in March. Monday’s signing was ceremonial.

VOICES for Alabama’s Children said “That an estimated two-thirds of Alabama children have all parents in the workforce, greatly underscoring the need for healthy and safe environments for young children.

“The educational dialogue between legislators and advocates from across Alabama regarding licensing standards was an important step in elevating this issue into the public arena.”

HB 76 was sponsored by Reps. Pebblin Warren, D-Tuskegee, and KL Brown, R-Jacksonville. It strengthened safety requirements for child care programs, limits which programs are exempt and adds annual fire and health department inspection requirements.

HB 76 also includes mandatory insurance requirements for faith-based programs that qualify to be licensed exempt. It will also require mandatory criminal background checks on all employees; the failure to annually provide such reports will trigger a visit by the Department of Human Resources (DHR) that may result in requiring the program to become licensed.

“We thank our lawmakers for taking a first step towards fixing the child care system in our state and appreciate the efforts of our advocates and partners who have worked tirelessly on this issue. We will continue to fight to make all child care safe care for the children of Alabama,” Rhonda Mann, Interim executive director of VOICES for Alabama’s Children, said.

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VOICES for Alabama’s Children is said to be the state’s longest-standing multi-issue child advocacy organization. It is home to the Alabama Kids Count Data Book. The group said that it believes all children deserve basic health and safety protections while in child care.

“While HB 76 is a step in the right direction, it is far from the ideal legislation that we believe the children of Alabama deserve. According to the 2017 Alabama Kids Count Data Book, by 2027 projections show licensed exempt programs will make up more than 63% of all child care in Alabama. The current bill will do nothing to curb the growth of licensed exempt child care.”

VOICES for Alabama’s Children says that it is a statewide nonprofit that works to ensure the well-being of Alabama’s children through research, public awareness, and advocacy.

Critics of HB76 argued that it was an unwarranted intrusion on Alabama’s Churches and the constitutional rights of citizens freedom to practice their religion without state interference. Some worry that government inspections could ultimately lead to government bureaucrats censoring the curriculum taught at faith based institutions.

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Crime

“A horrific scene”: Seven found dead after Morgan County shooting

Brandon Moseley

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Seven people were found dead in a horrific scene at a home in rural Morgan County late Thursday night after gunshots were reported.

The Morgan County Sheriff’s Office Friday morning said its deputies responded to the scene Thursday night. At approximately 11:23 p.m. deputies responded to a gunshots call in the 500 block of Talacuh Rd in Valhermoso Springs. Police confirmed seven adult fatalities.

“The scene is secure and no immediate threat to the public in the area,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement, but no suspect in custody.”

There are media reports that the victims include four men and three women.

“Morgan County Sheriff and Madison County Sheriff Crime Scene Units are processing the scene,” the Sheriff’s Department said in the statement. “The Morgan County Sheriff’s Office is part of the FBI Violent Crimes Taskforce which is also assisting. Sheriff Puckett, Coroner Jeff Chunn and District Attorney Scott Anderson have been on scene throughout the night and morning.”

Upon arrival at the residence, deputies saw part of the home was on fire and later discovered seven bodies inside after the fire was extinguished. The deputies were able to put out the fire before the fire department arrived. A dog was also found dead in the home.

“It is a horrific scene and to be able to process it will take some time,” MCSO’s public information officer Mike Swafford told WAAY. “We don’t have a motive at this time. We don’t have a determined suspect at this time. Investigators are following leads to piece together exactly what happened and who was involved. We can say we don’t believe there is an active threat to anybody in the area.”

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The neighbors called 911 to report the gunshots

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National

Mobile removes Confederate monument overnight

Chip Brownlee

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The city of Mobile removed a Confederate monument from downtown overnight following days of protest in Mobile and nationwide over police brutality and systemic racism.

Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson said he ordered the statue removed from its prominent location in downtown Mobile overnight.

“Moving this statue will not change the past,” Stimpson said in a statement on Twitter. “It is about removing a potential distraction so we may focus clearly on the future of our city. That conversation, and the mission to create One Mobile, continues today.”

The 120-year-old statue of Admiral Raphael Semmes, a Confederate Navy admiral, is the second Confederate monument removed in Alabama since protests gripped the nation over the police killing of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

“To be clear: This decision is not about Raphael Semmes, it is not about a monument and it is not an attempt to rewrite history,” Stimpson said.

Stimpson said the statue has been placed in a secure location.

Last week, Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin ordered a Confederate monument in Linn Park removed. That statue had been at the center of a years-long legal battle between the city of Birmingham and the Alabama Legislature, and Attorney General Steve Marshall has since sued the city a second time seeking a $25,000 fine for removing the monument.

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It is likely that Mobile will also face a similar fine.

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Crime

More prison workers, inmates test positive for COVID-19

Eddie Burkhalter

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Four more prison workers and three inmates have tested positive for COVID-19, the Alabama Department of Corrections announced Thursday. 

Workers at the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women, the Elmore Correctional Facility, the Kilby Correctional Facility and the Bibb Correctional Facility self-reported positive coronavirus test results, according to an ADOC press release. 

Fifty-one cases among prison staff remain active while 25 workers who tested positive have been cleared to return to work. 

One inmate at the Easterling Correctional Facility and another at Tutwiler prison were moved into isolated areas in the facilities’ infirmaries after testing positive for the virus, according to the release. There have been 17 confirmed COVID-19 cases among staff at Tutwiler and 2 infected inmates. 

In addition to those two new confirmed cases, an inmate at the St. Clair Correctional Facility who had pre-existing medical conditions was taken to a local hospital after exhibiting coronavirus symptoms, where he tested positive for the virus. 

Thirteen of 22 confirmed COVID-19 cases among inmates remain active, according to ADOC. 

ADOC has tested 191 of approximately 22,000 inmates as of Wednesday.

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Josh Moon

Opinion | In Alabama, we just keep spinning in the same, sad circle

Josh Moon

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If you don’t learn from history you will be doomed to repeat it. 

Just ask Alabama. 

We’re to the point now in this state where we don’t actually have new events, just new ways to relive the same awful things we did in the past. 

Look at this week. 

There’s a protest in a major city — this time in Huntsville. Cops respond with an absurd show of force and violence — using tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets against a peaceful crowd. There is national outrage over the images and injuries that result. 

The cops then claim there were “outside anarchists” (the 2020 version of “outside agitators) and they had no choice, because they knew where things were headed (even though there had been no violence or other problems in the previous five hours). The state attorney general “investigates” with a single phone call and backs up the cops without so much as interviewing a single individual who attended the protest. 

Tah-dah. Alabama “justice” is served. 

I think I know what comes next. Because it came next the last several times this same thing happened, with these same responses and this same embarrassment. 

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Some 30 years or so from now, there’ll be a movie or pictures in a history book. Alabama’s people will be portrayed as the ignorant, backwards racists they are. 

Do these people really not see it? Can they not hear themselves? Do they not understand how history will view them? 

Because it’s not hard to figure it out. We’ve all watched the movies and read the books. 

They can pretend it’s not that bad — that they’re right about their decisions to arbitrarily spray tear gas at peaceful protesters and shoot them with rubber bullets. They can attempt to justify that violence against peaceful American citizens by claiming the whole protest was illegal — simply because they said so.  

But it all sounds so stupidly familiar. 

To Alabama State Trooper Maj. John Cloud. Cloud stood at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge in 1965, as a group of black protesters planning to march from Selma to Montgomery neared the gathered throng of state troopers. That’s when Cloud began ordering them to stop. 

“You are hereby ordered to disperse,” Cloud yelled at the marchers. “I am saying that this is an unlawful assembly. You are ordered to disperse. This march will not continue.”

A day later, in a “Face the Nation” interview, Gov. George Wallace blamed the incident on “outside agitators” and held up newspapers to show that riots were occurring in other states, and police were using force in those cities. 

Remember those words. 

On Thursday, Huntsville Police Chief Mark McMurray and Madison County Sheriff Kevin Turner held a press conference at which they praised themselves and their departments for the response. 

During that press conference, Turner said this: “We gave them the order that this is unlawful — I gave it three or four different times. At that point, you’ve seen what’s going on around the country. Do y’all want that done to your town? We don’t want that done to our town.”

McMurray said: “It was an unauthorized protest against government. That’s what anarchists do. These were non-peaceful agitators. They, by their refusal to obey a lawful order, brought this on themselves.”

Striking, no? 

Now, look, I’m not saying that what happened in Huntsville approaches the level of injustice that took place in Selma 55 years ago, or that the result of the Huntsville debacle will lead to grand changes or even be remembered 10 years from now. 

But I am saying that what we’re witnessing in this country right now is a massive shift — a reckoning the likes of which we haven’t seen in those 55 years. Big changes are coming, finally, to right a whole lot of wrongs and make life much more palatable for a whole lot of people. 

And it’s striking that the same language and attitudes that dominated Alabama back in 1965 — the language and attitudes we all wince at when we hear them in movies or see them in footage from those days — are remarkably similar to what we’re hearing from police chiefs, sheriffs, mayors and state leaders around Alabama. 

Not all of them, but enough that it should embarrass the hell out of us, because here we are again doing the same things, having learned nothing at all from a half-century of shame. 

The people gathered in Huntsville weren’t a problem. They were never going to be a problem. They were in that park to stand up for themselves and their fellow Americans, to protest injustice and racism. 

They weren’t there because they don’t care about America or Alabama or Huntsville. They were there because they do care. 

They see an America that is unfair and uncaring. They see an America that kicks the little guy and pays no attention to laws or constitutional rights. They see an America where minorities — and those who stand up for minorities — routinely get the shaft and no one says a damn word about it unless it’s caught on video. 

And what happened Wednesday night proved them right.

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