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Jones says Trump tariffs will cause loss of auto manufacturing jobs

Chip Brownlee | The Trace

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A worker at Hyunda Motor Manufacturing Alabama inspects an engine at their plant outside of Montgomery. (photo via Hyunda Motor Manufacturing Alabama)

Alabama Sen. Doug Jones, a Democrat, and Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Republican, crossed party lines Thursday in writing a letter to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross urging him to reconsider a tariff on imported vehicles.

The two senators said the proposed 25 percent tariff — proposed by President Donald Trump — could threaten auto manufacturing jobs and business not only in Alabama, which has a massive auto industry, but in other states that have large auto manufacturing sectors.

“We share with you and President Trump the goal of bolstering our nation’s security and making sure that our trade policy is balanced and works for American workers and businesses,” the two senators’ letter states. “We are worried though that tariffs on the automotive industry will serve neither of these purposes, and instead put hundreds of thousands of American jobs at risk including many in our home states.”

The proposed tariff would affect all imported cars, trucks and auto parts, potentially raising the price of production and assembly that takes place at foreign-owned plants in Alabama and other states.

Trump’s proposed tariffs target not only manufacturers in Japan and China but could affect America’s allies closer to home, including Canada and Mexico. The administration has attempted to justify the tariffs by calling the U.S. trade deficit with the Japan, EU, Mexico and Canada a “national security issue.”

The Trade Expansion Act of 1962 gives the president the power to place tariffs on imports if they threaten national security.

“The Administration’s 232 investigation centers on the national security impact of the automotive industry in the United States,” the letter reads. “We can assure you that reducing the size of our state’s automotive manufacturing base will not bolster our nation’s security.”

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Mercedes-Benz was one of the first foreign manufacturers to open an assembly plant in Alabama in 1993, and since then, Alabama’s auto manufacturing industry has boomed. Honda, Hyundai and Toyota have since launched operations in Alabama and their arrival triggered the growth of a network of second- and third-tier suppliers across the state.

Alabama is in the Top 5 of states for auto production, with vehicles becoming Alabama’s No. 1 export. Last year, nearly 1 million cars and light trucks were manufactured in the state between the different companies along with 1.7 million engines.

Vehicles made in Alabama are exported to more than 85 nations across the globe, topping $9.5 billion in worth. A large portion of those shipments are to Germany and Canada, two nations which will be targeted by Trump’s proposed tariffs.

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Almost 40,000 jobs are in Alabama’s auto manufacturing industry. Some 27,000 of those jobs are from auto suppliers, which includes 200 companies across the state.

Earlier this year, Toyota-Mazda announced a joint venture to build a $1.6 billion assembly plant in Huntsville. Construction will begin in 2019 on that facility, which is slated to employ at least 4,000 workers at full production.

Last week, Hyundai announced a near-$400 million expansion of its Montgomery assembly plant.

“We hope you will take into consideration the vital role the automotive industry plays in our states and the well-being of the tens of thousands of American workers who rely on this sector to make ends meet,” the letter reads.


The full letter:

Dear Secretary Ross:

We are writing in response to the Commerce Department’s investigation under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 into whether imports of automobiles, including SUVs, vans and light trucks, and automotive parts into the United States threaten our national security.

We share with you and President Trump the goal of bolstering our nation’s security and making sure that our trade policy is balanced and works for American workers and businesses. We are worried though that tariffs on the automotive industry will serve neither of these purposes, and instead put hundreds of thousands of American jobs at risk including many in our home states.

Auto manufacturers and suppliers employ nearly 200,000 of our constituents and that number is growing. These are good jobs employing American workers. Over the past several years the automotive industry, including foreign manufacturers, has invested billions in our states and created thousands of jobs.

However, as a result of the Department’s investigation, automotive companies are currently facing the threat of direct and retaliatory tariffs, which could mean hundreds of millions of dollars of additional costs. To absorb these costs, automotive companies in our state could be forced to either raise prices or cut costs. Either scenario directly translates into lost jobs for our constituents.

The Administration’s 232 investigation centers on the national security impact of the automotive industry in the United States. We can assure you that reducing the size of our state’s automotive manufacturing base will not bolster our nation’s security.

In closing, we hope you will take into consideration the vital role the automotive industry plays in our states and the well-being of the tens of thousands of American workers who rely on this sector to make ends meet.

 

Chip Brownlee is a former political reporter, online content manager and webmaster at the Alabama Political Reporter. He is now a reporter at The Trace, a non-profit newsroom covering guns in America.

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Education

Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program gets more national attention

The article analyzed a recent study that found that students who attended the program were “statistically significantly more likely” to be proficient in both math and reading than those who did not.

Micah Danney

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(STOCK PHOTO)

The state’s First Class Pre-K program gives children advantages in math and reading that last into middle school, far longer than the gains studied in other high-quality pre-K programs, according to an article published in the International Journal of Child Care and Education Policy.

The article analyzed a recent study that found that students who attended the program were “statistically significantly more likely” to be proficient in both math and reading than those who did not.

While programs like Head Start and Tennessee’s pre-K program have been shown to lead to significant educational improvements when children enter kindergarten, those benefits appear to experience a “fadeout” within a year. 

The new research followed students through the 7th grade. Further research should examine the persistence of benefits through high school, according to the article, which was published by researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama, ThinkData and the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education.

The research “is reassuring and supports accountability for continued investments and expansion,” the article concluded.

The journal that featured the article is a publication of the National Institute of Early Education Research at Rutgers University.

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Congress

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne announces new chief of staff

Eddie Burkhalter

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U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne

Congressman Bradley Byrne, R-Alabama, on Friday announced that Seth Morrow will serve as his chief of staff.

“As we enter the last half of 2020, my office remains busy assisting constituents and advancing our legislative priorities. I know Seth shares my focus on finishing out my term in Congress strong, and he is well prepared to move into the Chief of Staff role,” Byrne said in a statement. “My staff and I will continue working hard every day to fight for the people of Southwest Alabama and advance our conservative agenda.”

Morrow is a native of Guntersville and has worked for Byrne since June 2014, serving as deputy chief of staff and communications director. 

“I am grateful for this opportunity, and I’m committed to ensuring our office maintains our first class service to the people of Southwest Alabama. Congressman Byrne has always had the hardest working team on Capitol Hill, and I know we will keep that tradition going,” Morrow said in a statement.

Morrow replaces Chad Carlough, who has held the position of Byrne’s chief of staff since March 2017. 

“Chad has very ably led our Congressional team over the last few years, and I join the people of Southwest Alabama in thanking him for his dedicated service to our state and our country,” Byrne said. 

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Crime

Alabama Department of Corrections investigating inmate death

Robert Earl Adams, 40, died on Aug. 5 and although no foul play is suspected, a department spokeswoman in a message to APR said the exact cause of death is pending an autopsy.

Eddie Burkhalter

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(STOCK PHOTO)

The Alabama Department of Corrections is investigating the death of an inmate at the Donaldson Correctional Facility.

Robert Earl Adams, 40, died on Aug. 5 and although no foul play is suspected, a department spokeswoman in a message to APR said the exact cause of death is pending an autopsy.

“While Adams’ exact cause of death is pending the results of a full autopsy, at the time of his passing inmate Adams was not exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, was not under quarantine following direct exposure to an inmate or staff member who previously had tested positive, and was not in medical isolation as a result of a positive COVID-19 test,” said ADOC spokeswoman Samantha Rose in the message.

Because Adams was not exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, he had not been tested, Rose said.

An ADOC worker who contacted APR Friday morning about the death, who asked not to be identified for fear of repercussions from ADOC administrators, said it’s suspected that Adams may have overdosed after being given a cigarette laced with a drug.

Adams is at least the sixteenth state inmate to die this year from either homicide, suspected drug overdose or suicide. Additionally, fifteen inmates and two prison workers have died after testing positive for COVID-19.

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Alabama GOP chair: “We expect our elected officials to follow the law” after Dismukes arrest

“Will Dismukes matter: We expect our elected officials, regardless of Party, to follow the laws of our state and nation,” Alabama GOP chair Terry Lathan said on Twitter.

Brandon Moseley

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State Rep. Will Dismukes, R-Prattville, has been arrested on the charge of felony theft.

Alabama Republican Party Chair Terry Lathan said Thursday that Alabamians expect their leaders to follow the law. Her comments came in response to news that an arrest warrant had been issued for State Rep. Will Dismukes, R-Prattville, on the charge of felony theft.

“Will Dismukes matter: We expect our elected officials, regardless of Party, to follow the laws of our state and nation,” Lathan said on Twitter. “No one is immune to these standards. It is very disappointing to hear of these allegations. This is now a legal matter and it must run its course.”

Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, said Friday in a statement that Dismukes will get his day in court.

“As a former law enforcement officer, I have faith in the criminal justice process and trust that he will receive a full and fair hearing,” McCutcheon said. “Both Democrats and Republicans have been accused of similar crimes in the past, and we cannot tolerate such behavior whether the lawmaker involved has a D or an R beside their name.”

Dismukes has been charged by his former employer, a custom flooring company, of felony theft charges. Dismukes left that employer and started his own custom flooring company.

Dismukes, who is serving in his first term and is one of the youngest members of the Alabama Legislature, has been heavily criticized for his participation in a birthday party for Confederate Lt. General Nathan Bedford Forrest in Selma. Forrest was also the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

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The party in Selma occurred the same week that Congressman John Lewis’s funeral events were happening in Selma. Dismukes resigned his position at Valley Baptist Church when the Southern Baptists threatened to disassociate the Prattville Church if they retained Dismukes. He has defiantly refused to step down from the Legislature, but if convicted of a felony, he would be automatically removed from office.

Both Democrats and Republicans have called for Dismukes to resign from the Alabama House of Representatives over his being the chaplain of the Prattville Sons of Confederate Veterans and his Facebook post lauding Forrest. The investigation into the theft predates the controversies surrounding Dismukes’s glorification of the Confederacy and Forrest.

Republican State Sen. Clyde Chambliss, who also represents Prattville, has called on Dismukes to resign.

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“Since first being elected in 1996, I’ve had a policy of not publicly criticizing other elected officials, but at this time I am making an exception since Rep. Dismukes is MY state representative. He does not represent my views or the views of the vast majority of people of District 88,” Chambliss said. “The post is bad enough, the timing is even worse, but the real problem is that an elected official in 2020 would attend a celebration of the life of someone that led a group that terrorized and killed other human beings. He has had 24 hours to understand why people are so upset, but his interview on WSFA a few moments ago confirms that he is lacking in understanding and judgment — he should resign immediately.”

Alabama Democratic Party Chairman State Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, has repeatedly called for Dismukes to resign from the Alabama House of Representatives.

The Alabama Democratic Party recently said in a statement, “Will Dismukes is morally unfit for office. Republicans and Democrats statewide seem to agree. Unfortunately, despite the mounting calls for his immediate resignation, Will intends to stay in office and seek re-election without penalty from the Republican Party.”

“While Alabama Republicans hope this will be a distant memory when Dismukes runs for re-election in 2022, we are not going to let him off the hook,” the ADP wrote. “The Alabama Democratic Party is going to leverage every tool we have to send Will packing when he comes up for re-election in two years.”

“In our darkest hours in life there is still light in Christ!” Dismukes wrote on social media Wednesday. “As the storm continues to blow with heavy force, there is yet a peace that this too shall pass. I guess sometimes we find out if we have built our house on sand or the solid rock of Christ. Psalm 23.”

When Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, was indicted on 21 charges of felony ethics violations, he did not resign and actually remained speaker until a jury of his peers in Lee County convicted him on 12 counts.

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