State Rep. Isaac Whorton (at center) was the guest speaker at Wednesday's noon hour meeting of the Kiwanis Club of Valley. He reviewed the 2016 session of the Alabama Legislature, looked ahead a bit to 2017 and talked about a special session that starts Aug. 23 to discuss the possibility of having a lottery in Alabama. Rep. Whorton is shown above with Karen Yarbrough (left), the program chair, and Bobby Ann McCollough (right), the club president. (Photo by Wayne Clark)
By WAYNE CLARK
VALLEY — Isaac Whorton, the Valley attorney who's now in his first term in the Alabama Legislature, was the guest speaker at Wednesday's noon hour meeting of the Kiwanis Club of Valley. Whorton represents District 38, which includes the southeast portion of Chambers County and parts of northern and eastern Lee County.
Whorton reviewed the 2016 legislative session, looked ahead to 2017 and talked about an upcoming special session that will start Aug. 15.
"I am hearing that a lottery could be the call, and that's problematic," Whorton said of the special session. "For the people to vote on it in November, it would have to make it through both houses and signed into law by the governor the next day. I don't think that's going to happen."
Whorton isn't optimistic about a lottery being passed with option 2. That involves a special referendum in January 2017. "Historically, there's a low voter turnout in a special election," he said. "This would almost certainly doom a lottery proposal to failure."
Proposed lotteries that are being discussed could generate scholarship money for students to attend two-year or four-year schools, provide money for the general fund, have the money split between the general fund and the education trust fund or another route with all the money going into road and bridge repair.
Rep. Whorton wants any kind of lottery to be decided by a vote of the people.
In recapping the 2016 session, Whorton said that the state's two budgets — the education budget and the general fund — are showing different results. One is growing and in good shape. The other is not.
"The education budget continues to show strong growth and solvency," he said. "Ten tax sources are allocated for the education trust fund, the largest are the individual and corporate income tax, sales tax, utility tax and use tax."
This budget was in such good shape that the legislature had solid support for teacher raises. Starting Oct. 1, school employees making $75,000 a year or less will be getting four-percent raises. Those making more than that will get raises of two percent.
"The general fund budget continues to show no growth," Whorton said.
Medicaid is the largest consumer of general fund monies. While most agencies were level funded this year, Medicaid got a 15 percent increase and that was some $85 million short of what was asked for.
Taxes for the general fund come from more than 40 sources including taxes on insurance premiums, interest on the trust fund, oil and gas lease money, a cigarette tax, ad valorem tax and profits from the Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) board.
Rep. Whorton was pleased with the passage of a bill that creates a new pre-trial hearing process for defendants in criminal cases. Before a cases goes to trial, the defendant can appear before a judge and claim self defense. If the judge grants this, the defendant is granted immunity in that case and there's no trial. If the judge refuses to do this, the defendant can still claim that before a jury.
"This is very good legislation," Whorton said. "It will allow for more efficiency in the court system."
Rep. Whorton said he's a big supporter of legislation known as Leni's Law, or an extension of Carly's Law. "This is a significant piece of legislation that decriminalizes the possession of CBD oil, which is the main derivative of the marijuana plant," he said. "Carly's Law initiated research at UAB to study the effects of the drug in patients who suffer from debilitating disorders, including seizures."
More than 50 patients were tested with most of them having more than 50 seizures each day. Results showed that more than half of the patients tested had sustained improvement and seizure control and a decrease of between 32 and 45 percent of seizures. Two patients became seizure free.
"I'm proud to have voted for this," Rep. Whorton said. "It's something that will make a difference in children's lives."
Whorton said the worst legislation to come up this past year involved a plan to somehow come up with $800 million to build four new megaprisons in the state. The total capacity of the prisons was 12,000 inmates. The problem is that capacity needs to be at least 28,000.
"It's absolutely true that we need new prisons," Rep. Whorton said, "but the way this was proposed was not good.It did nothing to address the overcrowding problem and would have cost up to $1.6 billion over 30 years. It was a hurried, 'gotta have it now' piece of legislation that died on the last day of the session. We did the right thing with it, but it will be back."
Whorton has a sneaking suspicion that somebody is trying to get rich off of this.
Rep. Whorton has sponsored, or will sponsor, legislation that will:
•Create term limits. He proposes to limiting service in the Legislature to 12 years.
•Help witnesses. Willow's Law will provide for discretionary use of a facility dog in cases where a witness (especially a child) may need the presence of a pet for comfort and to reduce the stress of testifying. This bill made it through the judiciary committee this year but did not make it to a floor vote.
•Indict legislative leaders. Rep. Whorton was one of ten co-sponsors of legislation that would require an indicted Alabama legislative leader to step down from his or her leadership position upon any indictment for any state or federal felony offense.
•Ban lobbying by felons. This legislation would prohibit a convicted felon from lobbying the Alabama legislature.
Rep. Whorton was asked what he will do if the House takes up impeachment of the governor. Whorton said if it's simply a move to impeach him over an alleged affair he won't vote for that, but that if it's proven beyond a reasonable doubt that he used taxpayer money to enable or conceal an affair he will vote for impeachment. "If one dollar was used for that I will vote to impeach," he said.
If the House votes to do that it will then go to the Senate, where the governor could be removed from office. Most likely, he'd resign before it got that far.
By WAYNE CLARK
VALLEY — A much beloved Christmas tradition in the local area, the Langdale Nativity, will be getting a new home and a new set of characters for this year's holiday season.
The scene has been displayed each year since 1948. It's always been displayed in Langdale Meadow, sometimes in front of Langdale Mill but mostly not far from Moore's Creek in front of Valley City Hall and across from the First Baptist Church of Valley.
The problem with having the scene near the creek is that the stream floods a lot during December. Over the years, figures of sheep, cows and others have been seriously damaged and some have been washed into the Chattahoochee and lost forever. One year a shepherd was saved when the hook of his staff wedged against the concrete underpass of Fob James Drive.
Last year's Christmas Eve flood was the final straw. A decision has been made to move it up to higher ground and to have a really impressive look to get it started in this new location.
The new site will be the parking lot across 20th Avenue from Langdale Methodist Church. It's not far from the Iron Bridge, which is a Christmas attraction of its own when its trusses are lighted, and on the same spot where the community's first hospital was located.
New to this year's Nativity will be a cow, two donkeys, two sheep and three lambs. They will replace figures that were seriously damaged in last year's flooding.
Cow Painters LLC of Chicago, Ill. will be making these life-sized animals. As the name suggests, they will be painting them, too. The company does really impressive work. They did the newest camel that's been appearing for the past few years in the scene.
Some new mannikins will be replacing some of the other Nativity characters. They will be outfitted in traditional Biblical era clothing.
The animal figures are on order from Cow Painters and should arrive over the next few weeks.
A donation of $10,000 from the Charter Foundation will cover the cost.
By THE TIMES-NEWS
IRVINE, Calif. — Two models built at Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia's plant in West Point have helped Kia Motors earn its most ever J.D. Power Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) awards with the Optima, Sorento, Sedona and Soul all garnering awards in their respective segments.
The quadruple award win has moved Kia to third in the industry among Non-Premium Nameplates, according to J.D. Power, propelling the brand up from seventh place in 2015. The announcement follows on the heels of Kia Motors recently being ranked highest in the industry in the J.D. Power Initial Quality Study (IQS).
“Customers want vehicles they’re proud to drive, and Kia earning four J.D. Power APEAL awards, a record for the brand, reflects our global focus of placing our customers first,” said Orth Hedrick, vice president, product planning, Kia Motors America. “Buyers today are smarter than ever and are looking for vehicles that offer a superior combination of design, technology, safety and premium amenities. The Optima, Sorento, Sedona and Soul are prime examples of these important attributes as more people discover the new Kia and its world-class model line every day.”
The West Point-built Optima and Sorento beat tough competition in their respective segments, with Optima performing a substantial 25 points above the segment average. The Sorento bested offerings from strong competition in the hotly contested midsize SUV segment. In the Minivan category, the Sedona beat segment rivals and 2016 marks the second consecutive year Kia’s highly regarded people mover scores an APEAL award. The Soul, a long-running favorite among consumers looking to stand out from the crowd, garnered its fourth APEAL award (2012, 2013, 2014, 2016), making it the vehicle with the most APEAL accolades in Kia’s lineup of award-winning vehicles.
The J.D. Power APEAL study measures new-vehicle owners’ overall satisfaction with their vehicles in the first 90 days of ownership. The results are divided into 10 categories and weighted accordingly: exterior, interior, storage, audio, seats, heating and ventilation, driving dynamics, powertrain, visibility and fuel economy.
By Scott Sickler
Times-News Sports Editor
There’s a lot of big high school football weekends this fall but perhaps none more significant than Fri., Oct. 21 with a pair of local showdowns on tap with region titles and home state playoff games in the balance.
In AHSAA 2A play, the highly-regarded Lanett Panthers close out the regular season at arch-rival LaFayette High in the Bulldogs Senior Night game at Bulldogs Stadium.
Coach Clifford Story’s Panthers are expected to field a strong team this fall and contend for its first region title since 2013.
The same can be said for coach James Lucas’ much improved Bulldogs squad, which has lofty goals of its own. LaFayette last won a region title in 2005 under Ike Grant.
There’s a strong possibility that the Lanett-LaFayette winner may claim the region title and a first-round home state playoff game.
•The other half of the showdown weekend Oct. 21 is an AISA 1A Region 1 battle between back-to-back defending state champion Abbeville Generals at coach Jason Allen’s state runner-up Chambers Rebels.
A lot of games will be played before Oct. 21 but the CA-ACA game could decide the region championship and with it, two home state playoff games.
Abbeville has soundly beaten CA three straight, including twice last season and the state finals.
Being motivated won’t be a problem for CA in this clash.
The Rebels have not won a region title since 2000 but a win over Abbeville may be the key win in a title drive to Troy.
By Scott Sickler
Times-News Sports Editor
LaGRANGE — One week into fall camp and things are looking up for second-year coach Tanner Glisson and the Troup High Tigers.
Troup is the first of the seven local schools to open fall camp this week and continue the momentum they built in spring drills as well as a very busy summer of 11-on-11 skills camps.
Last fall was a learning experience for the Tigers in Glisson’s first year, but the team made steady progress throughout the season and came within a blocked field in Week 9 against Fayette Co. of earning a GHSA 4A state playoff berth.
If you watched spring drills or seen any of 11-on-11 skills camps this summer, you've witnessed first-hand kids that are a lot more confident, a year stronger, faster and everyone — coaches and players alike — are all on the same page and unified.
In short, Troup is on the move to what could be a solid season with an eye on securing a 4A playoff berth.
“The first week has been really good,” Glisson told The Times-News Wednesday. “We should know more once we put the pads on but early indications are that we’ve progressed well. I like this group. They work really hard and are coachable, that’s all you can ask for.”
The Tigers will go to pads and contact drills next week.
•Troup opens the season Fri., Aug. 19 at Hardaway High in Columbus.
By Scott Sickler
Times-News Sports Editor
The 2016 high school football season is just three weeks from Friday as all seven local schools are continuing workouts with the official start of practice next week.
Coach Tanner Glisson’s Troup Tigers started fall camp Monday in GHSA play.
Old rivals Lanett and Valley will officially kickoff the 2016 high school football season Fri., Aug. 19 at Morgan-Washburn Stadium.
Valley leads the all-time series 52-29-2 as the two schools will meet for the 85th time.
Since 1990, Valley has won 20 of the 24 meetings with Lanett, including six straight.
Lanett’s last win over Valley was in 2007 when coach Ronnie Sikes’ team held off the Rams 24-21.
AHSAA and AISA schools open practice next week.
Optimism abounds for all seven local schools and for good reason. For the first time in many years, all local teams should be improved this fall and that bodes well for a number of big seasons.
In addition to the Valley-Lanett game Aug. 19, LaFayette and Troup will also be in action. The Bulldogs will host Dadeville while the Tigers will be on the road in Columbus at Hardaway High.
Other schools opening Aug. 26 include Beulah at Spring Garden, Chambers will play at Coosa Valley and Springwood will be on the road as well at Kingwood.
LANETT — Mrs. Geneva Bonner Carter, 87, of Lanett passed away Sunday, July 24, 2016, at her residence.
Funeral services will be held Saturday, July 30 at 1 p.m. at St. John Baptist Church with the Rev. Charles Trammell Sr., pastor, eulogist, the Rev. Walter L. Darden, Dr. Jesse Walker, the Rev. Gary Dixon, the Rev. Melvin Owens and the Rev. Michael T. Stiggers officiating. Burial will follow at the church cemetery.
M.W. Lee Mortuary of West Point is in charge of arrangements.
LaFAYETTE — Mr. Robert Lee Huguley, 63, of LaFayette passed away Monday, July 25, 2016, at Bethany House in Auburn, Ala.
Funeral services will be held Saturday, July 30 at 1 p.m. CDT at New Mt. Sellers Baptist Church in LaFayette with the Rev. Terry Magby, pastor, officiating. Burial will follow at the church cemetery.
Silmon-Seroyer Funeral Home in LaFayette is in charge of arrangements.
LaGRANGE — Mrs. Nancy Ruth Tyson Sledge passed away Thursday, July 28, 2016, at her residence.
Funeral services will be held Saturday, July 30 at 2 p.m. at Franklin Road Baptist Church, 1424 New Franklin Road, LaGrange. Entombment will follow at Restlawn Memory Gardens on Mooty Bridge Road in LaGrange.
Higgins LaGrange Chapel Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.