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Shelby announces DOT grant for transportation infrastructure improvements in Huntsville

Brandon Moseley

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U.S. Senator Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, announced Tuesday that the U.S. Department of Transportation granted the City of Huntsville a total of $8,000,000 for rail infrastructure and safety improvements along Old Highway 20.

“I am pleased to hear that this funding will allow for improvements to Old Highway 20 in Huntsville,” said Senator Shelby. “This project will preserve and enhance the city’s transportation system for years to come, as well as make necessary safety developments that are crucial to the success and reliability of North Alabama’s rail system.”

The funding will provide for an overpass initiative to eliminate congestion and improve traffic conditions in light of the future Toyota-Mazda plant, which will be located along the two-lane highway and bring 4,000 new commuters to the highway daily. The project also includes the repair of potholes and resurfacing of roads in order to improve motorists’ travel experience and boost drivers’ safety.

“These investments in intercity passenger and freight rail will benefit surrounding communities, make grade crossings safer and improve service reliability,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.
The Old Highway 20 project is being conducted in three phases. The first phase began in the fall of 2018, and the second and third phases are anticipated to be completed by late 2020. The project is funded through both local and federal funds.

Huntsville is making a concerted effort, along with its national and state partners, to improve the transportation infrastructure into and around the city.

“Our transportation needs are changing, and the City is focused on meeting the needs of our growing community,” said Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle (R). “We’re constantly working to improve major transportation corridors to move traffic, enhance public transit, and we’re modifying some of our internal, minor collectors to make it safer for cars, bikes and people.”

Huntsville is on pace to overtake Birmingham as the largest city in the state of Alabama. The Mazda-Toyota plant will bring thousands of jobs to the Huntsville area; but along with that will be greater demands on the area’s infrastructure.

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Richard Shelby is the Chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee.

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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Health

Study: COVID-19 infection rates more than double without lockdowns

Infection and fatality rates would have been higher without stay-at-home orders, a new UAB study found.

Micah Danney

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(STOCK PHOTO)

New research from the University of Alabama at Birmingham says that if there had been no stay-at-home orders issued in the U.S. in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the country would have experienced a 220 percent higher rate of infection and a 22 percent higher fatality rate than if such orders were implemented nationwide.

Seven states never imposed stay-at-home orders, or SAHOs. The study analyzed daily positive case rates by state against the presence or absence of statewide SAHOs between March 1 and May 4, the period when such orders began to be implemented. Twelve states lifted their SAHOs before May 4.

The researchers defined SAHOs as being in effect when a state’s governor issued an order for residents of the entire state to leave home only for essential activities and when schools and nonessential businesses were closed.

“During March and April, most states in the United States imposed shutdowns and enacted SAHOs in an effort to control the disease,” said Bisakha Sen, the study’s senior author. “However, mixed messages from political authorities on the usefulness of SAHOs, popular pressure and concerns about the economic fallout led some states to lift the restrictions before public health experts considered it advisable.”

The research also sought to determine if the proportion of a state’s Black residents was associated with its number of positive cases. It found that there was.

“This finding adds to evidence from existing studies using county-level data on racial disparities in COVID-19 infection rates and underlines the urgency of better understanding and addressing these disparities,” said study co-author Vidya Sagar Hanumanthu. 

The research can help advance a greater understanding of racial disparities in the health care system as a whole, and help leaders make future decisions about shutdowns as the virus continues to spread, Sen said.

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“While the high economic cost makes SAHOs unsustainable as a long-term policy, our findings could help inform federal, state and local policymakers in weighing the costs and benefits of different short-term options to combat the pandemic,” she said.

The study was published Friday in JAMA Network Open.

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Elections

Jones to attend Auburn student forum, Tuberville hasn’t yet responded to invitation

Jones has agreed to attend the forum, but it was unclear whether Tuberville planned to attend.

Eddie Burkhalter

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Sen. Doug Jones, left, and Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville, right.

The College Democrats at Auburn University and the College Republicans at Auburn University have asked U.S. Senator Doug Jones, D-Alabama, and his Republican opponent, Tommy Tuberville, to attend a student forum on Wednesday.

“We are excited to invite the candidates running for our U.S. Senate seat and provide this opportunity for any Auburn student to hear directly from them, and we hope it will inform our student bodies’ decisions with the November 3rd election only days away,” said Carsten Grove, president of the College Democrats at Auburn University, in a statement.

Jones has agreed to attend the forum, Auburn University College Democrats confirmed for APR on Sunday, but it was unclear whether Tuberville planned to attend. The student organization  was still awaiting a response from Tuberville’s campaign.

Jones has for months requested Tuberville join him in a debate, but Tuberville has declined.

“AUCR takes great pleasure in coming together with AUCD to co-host the Alabama Senate candidates in this forum. We are looking forward to a very informative and constructive event,” said Lydia Maxwell, president of the College Republicans at Auburn University.

Dr. Ryan Williamson, assistant professor of political science, is to emcee the forum, which will be open to all Auburn University students in the Mell Classroom Building at 6 p.m., according to a press release from the College Democrats at Auburn University.

Students will be permitted 30 seconds to ask a question of either candidate, and each candidate will have two minutes to answer, according to the release.

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Capacity at the forum will be limited and precautions taken due to COVID-19. Any student with an Auburn ID is welcome and attendance will be first come, first served.

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National

Vote on Amy Coney Barrett confirmation could come as early as today

The final Senate vote on her confirmation is expected to come Monday evening.

Brandon Moseley

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Judge Amy Coney Barrett during her confirmation hearings in the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. (VIA CSPAN)

Republicans in the Senate on Sunday voted to end debate on the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett as a United States Supreme Court justice. The final Senate vote on her confirmation is expected to come Monday evening.

Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, voted to cut off debate and advance Barrett’s confirmation. The Republican Senate majority voted to end debate on the confirmation of Barrett on a 51 to 48 vote. The move means that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, is likely to put forward the vote on Barrett’s confirmation sometime Monday.

Democrats continue to filibuster and use the Senate’s rules to delay the vote as long as possible, but it appears that Republicans have enough votes to confirm Barrett to the court.

“After speaking with Judge Barrett, I am confident that she is the right choice to serve on the Supreme Court,” Shelby said. “Judge Barrett is exceptionally qualified for this role and maintains strong conservative values and a deep commitment to our Constitution.”

U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, voted with his party and voted “no” on moving forward on Barrett’s confirmation. Jones said after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died that he would not support any Trump nominee before the Nov. 3 general election.

Jones did not speak with Barrett and said to reporters that he has not watched any of Barrett’s confirmation hearings.

Barrett is a Notre Dame graduate and instructor. She currently serves on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. She was appointed by Trump in 2017. After graduating from law school, Barrett clerked for D.C. Circuit Judge Laurence Silberman and for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

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Barrett practiced both trial and appellate litigation in Washington D.C. at Miller, Cassidy, Larroca & Lewin, and at Baker Botts. She worked for more than 15 years in academia, shaping the next generation of legal minds and supporting the professional development of her students, before being appointed to the federal judiciary by Trump.

Republicans, including Coach Tommy Tuberville, have been very critical of Jones for his refusal to support Barrett and his “no” vote on the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Tuberville is challenging Jones in the Nov. 3 general election.

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National

Bill Pryor, Kevin Newsome are on Trump’s short list for the next Supreme Court seat

Two of the president’s possible future Supreme Court picks have strong Alabama ties.

Brandon Moseley

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Supreme Court of the United States building in Washington

The Senate Judiciary Committee recommended that Judge Amy Coney Barrett be confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The full Senate is expected to vote to confirm Barrett to the High Court as early as Monday. The next president we elect on Nov. 3 will likely shape the future of the Supreme Court and the federal judiciary for decades to come.

While former Vice President Joe Biden has not disclosed his list of possible Supreme Court picks, President Donald Trump produced a list before the 2016 election and has updated his list throughout his presidency.

Two of his possible future Supreme Court picks have strong Alabama ties.

Kevin Newsom presently serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. He is a former Alabama solicitor general. Trump lists Newsom as a possible future Supreme Court justice.

Trump also listed Judge Bill Pryor as a possible future Supreme Court picks. Pryor presently also serves on the important U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. He is a former Alabama attorney general. Pryor was on Trump’s original list of possible jurists.

The Republican Attorney Generals Association pointed out that 13 current and former Republican AGs and senior staff are currently included on Trump’s SCOTUS short list including Pryor, Newsome and sitting Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron.

As Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s, R-Kentucky, former legal counsel, Cameron had the unique experience of working side by side with the majority leader to help usher over 200 federal judges through the confirmation process, including Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.

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Other former Republican AGs and senior staff on Trump’s list include:

  • U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz a sitting United States Senator and former Texas Solicitor General
  • Judge Kyle Duncan who sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. He is a former Assistant Texas Solicitor General and Louisiana Appellate Chief.
  • Judge Allison Eid presently serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. She is a former Colorado Solicitor General.
    Judge Britt Grant serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. He is a former Georgia Solicitor General.
  • Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Missouri) is a United States Senator and former Missouri Attorney General.
  • Judge James Ho serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. He is a former Texas Solicitor General.
  • Justice Carlos Muniz serves as a Florida Supreme Court Justice. He is a former Florida Deputy Attorney General and Chief of Staff.
  • Judge Lawrence VanDyke serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. VanDyke is a former Nevada and Montana Solicitor General.
  • Judge Don Willett serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. He is a former Deputy Texas Attorney General.
  • Judge Patrick Wyrick serves on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma. He is a former Oklahoma Solicitor General.
  • Other possible future picks on President Trump’s list include:
  • Judge Bridget Bade who serves on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
  • Justice Keith Blackwell who serves on the Georgia Supreme Court.
  • Justice Charles Canady from the Florida Supreme Court.
  • Judge Steven Colloton from the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.
  • Paul Clement who is a partner with Kirkland & Ellis, LLP.
    Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) is a sitting United States Senator.
  • Steven Engel who is Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel of the U.S. Department of Justice.
  • Noel Francisco is a former United States Solicitor General.
  • Judge Raymond Gruender who serves on United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.
  • Judge Thomas Hardiman who serves on the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.
  • Judge Greg Katsas serves on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
  • Judge Raymond Kethledge who serves on the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.
  • Judge Barbara Lagoa who serves on the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.
  • Ambassador Christopher Landau who is the United States Ambassador to Mexico.
  • Judge Joan Larsen who serves on the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.
  • Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) a sitting United States Senator.
  • Justice Thomas Lee who serves on the Utah Supreme Court.
  • Justice Edward Mansfield who serves on the Iowa Supreme Court.
  • Judge Federico Moreno who serves on the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida.
    Judge Martha Pacold who serves on the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.
  • Judge Peter Phipps serves on the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.
  • Judge Sarah Pitlyk serves on the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri.
  • Judge Allison Jones Rushing who serves on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.
  • Judge Margaret Ryan who serves on the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces.
  • Judge David Stras serves on the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.
  • Judge Diane Sykes serves on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.
  • Judge Amul Thapar serves on the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.
  • Kate Comerford Todd is the Deputy White House Counsel.
  • Judge Timothy Tymkovich serves on the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.
  • Former Justice Robert Young of the Michigan Supreme Court (retired).

Selecting federal judges is one of the longest lasting effects that a president can have on the country.

President George H.W. Bush was elected president in 1988 and served just one term, but his Supreme Court pick, Clarence Thomas, is still serving on the court three decades later. If Trump’s three Supreme Court picks last as long, they could be serving past the middle of this century.

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