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Off The Record: The latest rumors and rumblings in North Alabama


Biden’s invited!

Recent media reports speculating that the Biden White House is working to steer Space Command Headquarters to Colorado was met by Alabama leaders with criticism, threats and … invitations. Huntsville City Councilman Bill Kling was the first to jump on the hospitality bandwagon and publicly invited President Joe Biden to come to Huntsville and see for himself why Space Force should be here. That was followed by a video invitation from Sen. Tommy Tuberville over Twitter which made the point that President John Kennedy visited Redstone Arsenal 60 years ago this week and invited President Biden to do the same. While no White House RSVP has been forthcoming, one may assume Kling stands a better chance as tour guide over the very vocal Biden critic Tuberville. 

Rest stop rocket restoration
Sen. Tom Butler’s bill to replace the Saturn 1B rocket is taking off in the State House after receiving unanimous approval in committee this week. The current rocket serves as a welcome home icon for residents of the 256. But NASA says it’s deteriorated and needs to be taken down. Butler’s bill would authorize ADECA to oversee the design, construction, and installation of a replica. It’s on track to become one of the bills to make it over the finish line this session with bipartisan support. If it doesn’t, Butler says we’re going to launch the old rocket to Montgomery.

Enthusiastic endeavors

The Huntsville Hospital Foundation Classic gets underway Saturday and the event is reportedly smashing fundraising records. Much of the credit could be given to the friendly rivalry between the two co-chairs – Bill Roark and Hank Isenberg. The two titans of the Huntsville business community have apparently worked to outdo each other to gather support for the Classic that will feature Martina McBride at the Orion on May 20. All money raised will benefit the Huntsville Hospital’s Heart Center. The last time I checked,there were still tickets available but, between Bill and Hank’s efforts, they might not be there for long.  

Power and Influence

Alabama’s annual Power and Influence announcements begin Monday. I hear quite a few new names will be appearing on the annual list that features 50 of Alabama’s most powerful and influential political leaders. The list compiled by Yellowhammer Multimedia also reportedly includes some of our favorite North Alabama leaders.

Reynolds reigns

State Rep. Rex Reynolds has done a masterful job during his first session chairing the House General Fund Budget Committee according to Montgomery insiders. He steered his record $3 billion General Fund budget through the process and saw it pass the House 105-0. Insiders could not recall another substantive bill passing the House with a unanimous vote in years. As one noted this is a body that usually can’t even get a unanimous vote to break for lunch. Reynolds’ budget is now in front of the Senate where changes are likely but many predict the final version will look a lot like what Chairman Reynolds drew up. 

Mill Creek redo

Details about the Mill Creek redevelopment in Huntsville are slowly trickling out. The $400 million development at Governors and Seminole drives will feature more than 800 housing units. That’s not quite as many as earlier plans called for but planners feel it will be better fit for the area. Many large employers in the area are applauding the effort as one of many solutions needed to address workforce housing challenges.

Chick Fil A++

The Chick Fil A restaurant on U.S. 72 in Madison has long been one of the most successful locations in the region. Customers have made no secret that they love their Chick Fil A and want more locations. The word in local development circles is that they may soon get their wish as Chick Fil A is believed to be eyeing the old Ruby Tuesday’s site at the Wall Triana/I-565 interchange across from Town Madison. The spot was previously believed to be the next location for Starbucks but word is that plans have shifted and Madison may finally get their second location.Meanwhile, the Athens chicken-craving crowd is about to go without for a few months, their Chick Fil A is closing until September for a remodel. 

Grocery tax bill heads to House

Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth’s efforts to cut the state sales tax on groceries is moving to the Alabama House. Representatives are expected to take up the bill in committee next Wednesday before it takes the floor Thursday. Ainsworth says after gaining support from all 35 senators, he has 100 of 105 members of the house on board as well. The bill “cuts the state sales tax on groceries and begins the process of abolishing it altogether.”

About those rebates…

The reportedly left-for-dead rebates are alive again? The Alabama Senate-approved budget included a $100 rebate – slashed from the $400 pushed by Gov. Kay Ivey. However, in the House’s hands the amount could rise, perhaps to a $250 check to taxpayers.   

Geography jokes

Splits between North and South Alabama are always present in the Alabama Legislature but rarely have they been as open as they are during discussions on the State Education Budget and Supplemental Appropriations Bill. The State Senate took a hard line against any non-educational or non-workforce related spending and removed several items pushed by the Mobile delegation. 

Casualties include the proposed $25 million for facility upgrades at the Port of Alabama in Mobile as well as $31 million to help the Mobile Airport Authority move their airport back downtown. The Mobile delegation says this fight is not over. Beth Lyons, who lobbies for the city of Mobile and its Airport Authority, produced an analysis of spending in the budget that she firmly claims is tipped in favor of North Alabama. 

When pressed about her definition of North and South, Lyons said her list included all spending below Montgomery as being “South” and everything above Montgomery being “North.” In addition to the disproportionate division, observers also noted the population above Lyon’s line is substantially greater than below.

Have a rumor or rumbling to share? Email [email protected].


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