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Alabama will not provide funding for passenger rail service to Mobile at this time

Brandon Moseley

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Two Amtrak trains pass one another just outside Tuscaloosa Alabama on the Crescent line via Flikr.

Gov. Kay Ivey on Thursday announced Alabama will not commit funds towards extending passenger rail service to Mobile. The Southern Rail Commission released a statement after it was unable to secure state matching funds for the cost of resuming passenger rail service from the states of Alabama and Mississippi.

“The Southern Rail Commission (SRC) regrets that it was unable to apply for the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA)’s FY17 Consolidated Rail Infrastructure Safety and Improvements (CRISI) funding due to the lack of state funding commitments from Mississippi and Alabama. The CRISI program was created and funded with the support of Senator Wicker and then-Senator Cochran, and the Gulf Coast rail project was well suited to take advantage of this unique opportunity. Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards was prepared to commit $9.5million towards the project. The SRC stands ready to apply for the FY18 round of funding should Mississippi and Alabama commit the required matching funds.”

The SRC claims that the Trent Lott National Center at the University of Southern Mississippi estimates that restoring passenger rail along the Gulf will deliver an annual return on investment of between $64 million and $525 for Mississippi, between $19 million and $229 million for Alabama, and between $86M and $378M for Louisiana, depending on the increase in tourism.

The combined local match between Mississippi and Alabama would be approximately $20 million.

The SRC claims that that would be more than offset by the economic growth produced from additional gulf coast tourism. It is currently impossible to travel by passenger rail from Birmingham to Mobile, even though there is passenger rail service from Birmingham to New Orleans.

“I know I speak for my fellow Commissioners when I say I’m very disappointed to not take advantage of this funding for which Gulf Coast Passenger Rail is so perfectly suited,” said SRC Chairman John Spain. We’ll turn our sights to the 2018 fiscal year, and I’m hopeful we will have full support to apply for CRISI funds at that time.”

The Mobile City Council passed a resolution asking Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R) for the money; but on Thursday Ivey declined to commit the funds.

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“I currently do not plan to provide limited state resources to passenger rail service.” Gov. Ivey said.

Amtrak’s Crescent Line currently runs through Birmingham and runs from New Orleans to New York City. The proposed Gulf Coast line would have connected New Orleans to Biloxi and Mobile. Passenger rail service on the Gulf Coast ended with Hurricane Katrina.

Ivey’s Democratic opponent, Walter “Walt” Maddox, strongly disagreed with the decision not to fund the rail expansion.

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Maddox said in a statement, “After exhaustive research and study, Governor Ivey’s own appointees to the Southern Rail Commission recommended an investment that would vastly enhance Alabama’s tourism industry for decades to come by creating new jobs and revenue for a 21st Century economy. This is not about passenger rail versus freight – this is about the past versus the future. This decision continues Governor Ivey’s pattern of outdated governing that keeps Alabama at or near the bottom in everything that matters. In missing this opportunity to position Alabama at the epicenter of passenger rail travel on the gulf coast, Governor Ivey proves that Alabama is not ‘on the right track.’”
Maddox and Ivey will be in the general election on November 6.

Rail advocates had hoped to connect Birmingham to Montgomery and to Huntsville as well in the future.  That seems unlikely now.

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with eight and a half years at Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook. Brandon is a native of Moody, Alabama, a graduate of Auburn University, and a seventh generation Alabamian.

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23rd Alabama inmate dies with COVID-19

There have been 409 total positive COVID-19 cases among inmates and 392 total among employees as of Sept. 26.

John H. Glenn

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(STOCK PHOTO)

The Alabama Department of Corrections on Friday reported the 23rd COVID-19 death among inmates in the state’s prisons.

Christopher Nalls, a 59-year-old inmate serving a 15-year sentence, died Sept. 10 at a local hospital in Hamilton, Alabama.

Nalls was moved to the local hospital on Aug. 31 to receive treatment for pre-existing health conditions unrelated to COVID-19.

His admission test upon entering the hospital was negative, and after treatment, Nalls was discharged Sept. 4.

Upon return, Nalls’s condition worsened, and he was readmitted Sept. 10. He died later that same day. A postmortem COVID-19 test showed Nalls died with COVID-19.

ADOC did not report any other positive COVID-19 cases among inmates in correctional facilities. But in the same report Friday, ADOC reported six new positive cases among staff, bringing the staff total to 28 active cases.

ADOC’s Office of Health Services initiated investigations into possible prolonged exposures between positive staff members and inmates or employees.

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There have been 409 total positive COVID-19 cases among inmates and 392 total among employees as of Sept. 26.

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Courts

Sen. Doug Jones won’t support SCOTUS nominee before Nov. 3 election

“Certainly, power grabs are not uncommon in our political system, but few are accompanied by such blatant hypocrisy as we are witnessing now,” Jones said.

Eddie Burkhalter

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Incumbent U.S. Sen. Doug Jones during a livestreamed press briefing. (VIA DOUG JONES CAMPAIGN)

Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, on Friday said he would not support any nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court before the outcome of the Nov. 3 election is determined. 

Speaking during a livestreamed briefing, Jones said that while Republicans appear to have enough votes to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, he will not be a party to denying the people a voice in the process in the election of the next president “in just under 44 days.” 

President Donald Trump said Saturday that he plans to nominate Amy Coney Barrett to replace Ginsburg, who on Friday became the first woman, and first Jewish person, to lie in state at the U.S. Capitol. 

Several Republicans who voiced opposition to President Barack Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court more than 10 months before the 2016 election have reversed course, and now say they support Trump nominating a selection with election day just a little more than a month away. 

“Certainly, power grabs are not uncommon in our political system, but few are accompanied by such blatant hypocrisy as we are witnessing now,” Jones said. “In fact, I believe that the level and intensity of hypocrisy being displayed by Senator McConnell and the president, with regard to the rush to confirm Justice Ginsburg’s successor, is unmatched in the history of our constitutional government.” 

Jones said what McConnell and other Republicans should be focusing on instead is getting another round of much-needed COVID-19 aid to small businesses and people impacted by the pandemic. 

“Rather than pushing this confirmation to the top of the Senate calendar, the majority leader should turn his focus instead to protecting the lives and livelihoods of the American people. We should pass a new bipartisan COVID-19 stimulus package to give Americans and businesses the relief that they desperately need, and that economists say if required to shore up the economy now,” Jones said. 

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Jones expressed concern as well for what medical experts are warning could be a new spike in COVID-19 nationwide. 

“There could be an even greater urgency, if our health care professionals’ warnings come to pass,” Jones said. “And that is as temperature drops and people go indoors that this virus spikes, and we see another surge.” 

Asked why his opponent, Tommy Tuberville, won’t debate Jones, he said, “It’s pretty simple. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”  

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“He has no clue. He is Coach Clueless,” Jones said. 

Jones noted that when asked recently on his thoughts on extending the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act of 2020, Tuberville stumbled through an answer that indicated he wasn’t sure what the Voting Rights Act was.

“He had no earthly idea,” Jones said. 

Jones said Tuberville isn’t going to debate him because Tuberville doesn’t want to talk about issues.

“He doesn’t want to talk about a plan. His plan is simply this: Whatever Donald Trump says, I’m good,” Jones said, “and if Donald Trump says or does something that is not good, it’s crickets coming from Coach Tuberville.” 

Jones noted that after multiple news outlets, including Fox News, confirmed reporting that Trump had said disparaging things about veterans who died in combat, Tuberville has not spoken out against Trump’s comments. 

Jennifer Griffin, senior national security correspondent for Fox News, reported that she has spoken to senior U.S. officials who backed up reporting by The Atlantic, and said Trump said of the Vietnam War “anyone who went was a sucker.” 

“He has not said a thing about what was confirmed by Fox News about the president’s comment,” Jones said of Tuberville. “That’s just disgraceful.”

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News

SEC college football season begins

In August, it appeared that there could potentially be no college football season.

Brandon Moseley

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(VIA AUBURN UNIVERSITY ATHLETICS)

The delayed Southeastern Conference college football season is now underway as Auburn on Saturday hosted Kentucky. The University of Alabama will be playing the University of Missouri in Columbia.

Kickoff for the Kentucky vs. Auburn game was at 11 a.m., and the kickoff for the Alabama vs. Missouri game will be at 6 p.m. Auburn defeated Kentucky 29 to 13.

In August, it appeared that there could potentially be no college football season. The Ivy League, the SWAC, the University of Connecticut, the MAC, the Big 10, the PAC 12, and the Mountain West conferences all announced that they would postpone the 2020 football season to spring.

The unlikely prospect of playing two shortened college football seasons in one calendar year seemed to be the best hope of there even being a college football season. But college football is not like other sports and there is no central governing authority. Each conference makes decisions for itself.

The Atlantic Coast Conference and SEC both met and each decided that they would play this fall — regardless of if any of the other conferences were playing. The Big 12 eventually joined the SEC and ACC.

The SEC will play a 10-game, conference-only season that ends with an SEC Championship game on Dec. 19. Both Alabama and Auburn will have fans in the stands, but both schools are limiting capacity — at least for their home openers. Attendees must wear masks or cloth face coverings and social distancing rules will apply.

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Many states, including Alabama, are playing high school football, and the NFL is in its third week of play. Last week, the Big 12 reversed their earlier decision to sit out this fall and announced an 8-week, conference-only season starting in October. On Thursday, the PAC 12 voted to play a seven-game, conference-only season starting in November, followed by a Dec. 19 championship game. The Mountain West has also voted to play a fall season and the Mid-American Conference is voting, and the colleges are expected to green light an abbreviated fall season.

President Donald Trump had strenuously urged colleges to play this football season.

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UAB, South Alabama and Troy University have already begun their Conference USA and Sunbelt Conference football seasons. UAB defeated South Alabama 42 to 10 on Thursday night.

While few young people have actually died from COVID-19, some university presidents in the Big 10 expressed concerns about the long-term health effects on COVID-19 on survivors, including incidents of heart inflammation.

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Congress

Republicans blast Jones for refusal to even consider Trump nominee

Brandon Moseley

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Republicans criticized U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, on Friday for saying that he would not vote to confirm any nominee by President Donald Trump before the Nov. 3 election.

Alabama Republican Party chair Terry Lathan called Jones’s announcement “disgraceful.”

“It’s disgraceful that Senator Jones is dismissing his duties when he announced he would not support the confirmation of any Supreme Court justice nominee put forth by President Trump prior to the November election,” Lathan said in a statement. “The Constitution of our country clearly states that the President ‘shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint…judges of the Supreme Court…’”

“At the very least, Senator Jones owes Alabamians the simple courtesy of meeting with the nominee regardless of what he already plans to do,” Lathan continued. “It’s time for him to do his job, at least until November 3rd.”

“The people of our great state have spoken,” Lathan concluded. “The majority support President Trump and his policies which includes the conservative judges he has nominated for the federal bench. However, Doug Jones continues to ignore the wishes of the majority of his constituents and falls in line with his liberal party bosses, Hollywood supporters and New York fundraisers. On Election Day, Alabamians will give their advice and consent to remove Doug Jones from office. Tommy Tuberville will represent the majority’s values when he is elected as our next U.S. Senator.”

On Friday, Jones was asked if he would even meet with the nominee. His response was, “I don’t think my vote’s going to count, so I doubt they’ll even want to.”

“The President’s nominee hasn’t even been announced but anti-Trump Democrat Doug Jones has already made up his mind against the person,” said NRSC spokesperson Paige Lindgren. “Refusing to take part in a consequential Supreme Court confirmation process is the latest example that Jones has one foot out the door. He’s clearly no longer focused on representing the people of Alabama.”

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Former State Rep. Perry Hooper Jr., a Trump supporter, said that Jones votes against “everything that the people of Alabama believe in.”

“Doug Jones has consistently voted against the President and everything the good people of Alabama believe in.” Hooper said. “Jones is against the 2nd Amendment, he is for government funded abortions and he is a globalist. Alabama needs to send a strong pro-life, pro-business, pro-Trump and pro-American to Washington DC. And that man is Coach Tommy Tuberville.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, has vowed to bring the president’s pick to the floor of the Senate for a vote.

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“Thank God for Senator Mitch McConnell,” Hooper said. “Senator McConnell has 51 votes to confirm the President’s nominee to the US Supreme Court.”

Conservatives are hopeful that a more conservative court will vote to overturn Roe vs. Wade, the Supreme Court precedent that prevents state governments from banning abortions.

“Senator Doug Jones betrayed Alabamians when he voted against Justice Kavanaugh and has betrayed them again today, before President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee has even been named,” SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser said in a statement. “During his short time in office, Jones has proven to be an extremist, repeatedly siding against constituents and voting with the most radical members of his party – like Kamala Harris – in favor of abortion on demand through birth, paid for by taxpayers. Asked about his stance on limiting late-term abortions more than halfway through pregnancy, Senator Jones laughed and called the issue ‘stupid.’ Jones is unfit to represent the pro-life, pro-Trump state of Alabama and will be held accountable at the ballot box.”

Many media sources are reporting that Trump will appoint Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill the vacancy on the court left by the death of Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

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