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Jemison Intermediate Receives Grant for Chromebooks

Clanton Advertiser

By CAROLINE CARMICHAEL / Staff Writer

Jemison Intermediate sixth graders have been enjoying new Chromebooks, thanks to a $2,910 grant awarded to science teacher Katie Maddox.

The grant was funded by the Cawaco Resource, Conservation and Development (RC&D) Council, which is a nonprofit organization that supports educational and community development projects throughout Central Alabama.


The Council, together with Senator Cam Ward and Representatives Jimmy Martin and April Weaver, presented an announcement check to Maddox on April 11 at the school.

“On behalf of RC&D, we certainly are proud to be a part of it,” Drayton Cosby of Cawaco RC&D said. “I actually wanted to thank our partners — Senator Ward, Representative Weaver, Representative Martin — they actually provide us funding through the state.”

Maddox shared the impact the grant has had on her classroom.

“I purchased 10 HP Chromebooks for my personal use in the classroom,” Maddox said. “Two years ago, whenever I began writing the grant, we only had two computer carts for our school that all the teachers were having to share.”

Maddox said she had hoped to supply to her classroom with enough Chromebooks for students to share in groups of two or three.

Much has changed since then, and school technology upgrades now offer a Chromebook-student ratio of almost 1 to 1, according to Maddox and Principal D.J. Nix.

Maddox said she uses the Chromebooks in her classroom on a daily basis to regularly access Google Classroom, AMSTI learning programs and other research programs.

“Those are the ones that I personally use in my room,” she said. “One thing that is really great for our school, [is] we have a very large ESL population.”

Maddox said companies that offer digital textbooks can better accommodate Spanish-speaking students with simplified scientific terms and translation options.

Reading levels can also be adjusted for students’ needs.

Ward said the state has created a fund to meet the technological upgrade needs for schools.

“Tablets are there now, but I daresay we’ll all look back in 10 years and say, ‘Remember those old tablets we used to use?’ It’ll just keep evolving,” Ward said.

For more information about Cawaco RC&D, visit cawaco.org.

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Thorsby High School Raising Money for Digital Sign

Clanton Advertiser

Thorsby has been raising money since the start of the school year in hopes of getting a new digital sign out in front of the school.

The effort received some more help when Sen. Cam Ward donated $2,500 toward the fund during a check presentation on April 4.

“We’ve been working on it all year long,” Thorsby Principal Corey Clements said. “We’re about half way there. We hope to finish strong and have it [new sign] ready for next [school] year.”

According to Clements, the new sign will open up an avenue of options for how the school shares information and gets across its news to residents.

Digital signs have been installed at other schools throughout the county in recent years.

Dr. Kris Wood is a Thorsby alum and has been helping to spearhead the idea of a new sign for more than a year.

“Aside from everybody saying it looks nice, what we want is a better way to communicate with stakeholders in the community,” Clements said.

The school currently calls out to parents and leaves a message about schedule changes. However, callouts are subject to people missing the message.

The digital sign would give the school another alternative to relay messages and a backup plan to the callouts.

Sen. Cam Ward presented a check for $2,500 to Thorsby Principal Corey Clements during a presentation on April 4. The money will help Thorsby as it raises funds for a new digital sign in front of the school. (Contributed photo)
“It’s a great communication tool and also a way for us to celebrate success,” Clements said. “When we have a big win in football, we want to be able to put the score up there. We want to celebrate our kids when they’re doing well.”

An advantage of the sign is that it will allow for multiple upcoming events and news to be advertised on a rotating basis.

The sign will have the option to be changed remotely, which will mean eliminating the process of climbing up a ladder and manually changing the letters.

Alumni and community businesses have stepped up to provide donations, while Marika Porter has been in charge of a pair of fundraisers as a member of the school staff.

The fundraisers included selling fleece pullovers and cookie dough.

Donors will have their name run on the digital sign as often as possible, as a show of thanks for their support of Thorsby High School.

Anyone looking to make a donation or to get involved can contact the school at (205) 280-4880.

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April is Autism Awareness Month

April is National Autism Awareness Month and as the father of a child on the autism spectrum, I know firsthand the importance of raising awareness for the 50,000 Alabamians impacted by autism.

Affecting one in every 68 people, autism has become the country’s fastest growing developmental disability. I have spent the past decade advocating to raise awareness so that families like mine have access to the best resources for their loved ones with autism spectrum disorders.

My daughter Riley was a non-verbal three-year-old when we learned that she was on the autism spectrum. At the time, we knew very little about autism and were unsure how her life, and our family, would be impacted with this new reality. After enrolling Riley in an early intervention program and therapy participation, her social skills improved remarkably.

In the twelve years since we first received the diagnosis, I have been continually amazed at the progress Riley has made. One of my proudest moments as a father was listening to my now 15-year-old daughter share her story with the Senate Judiciary committee meeting last year. With all eyes and ears on her, Riley revealed how support services from the Autism Society of Alabama (ASA), in addition to therapy, helped her overcome many of the struggles that children with autism face.

Through advocacy efforts, my family and I have become heavily involved with the Autism Society of Alabama, the state’s leading source of education and resources for autism. The ASA seeks to improve services for families of those on the autism spectrum because every individual has inherent worth and dignity, and deserves accessible, individualized, comprehensive services.

This April, Alabamians have the opportunity to support individuals and families affected by autism through many programs available through the ASA.


The ASA will host several Funky Fun Run events in cities across the state during national Autism Awareness Month, bringing runners and walkers together for an enjoyable event sporting their favorite retro wear and wigs. With more than 50,000 children and adults affected by autism in Alabama alone, fundraisers like the Funky Fun Run help provide educational resources, parent networking groups, collaborative agency efforts and so much more.

Those who are unable to participate in the run, can make a monetary donation to support an Angel for Autism. These loving tributes honor and remember those affected by autism spectrum disorder to help provide family camps, regional conferences and personal assistance in accessing autism resources.

By supporting a walk, volunteering or donating this April, there are countless ways to support the ASA’s mission. Together, we can make a difference in the lives of Alabamians affected by autism and help contribute to the incredible work of the Autism Society of Alabama.

Cam Ward is a Republican member of the Alabama Senate and has represented District 14 since 2010. He and his wife Lindsey currently reside in Alabaster with his daughter, Riley.

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Sen Ward Bill Establishes Rape Victims Bill of Rights

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Senator Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) has introduced a bill in the Alabama Senate that will require that victims of sexual assault be given a written notification of their civil rights.

Under Senate Bill 388, survivors of sexual assault can receive information that details their rights to consult confidentially with a counselor during any evidentiary interview with a law enforcement officer or attorney; the bill specifics that they retain such rights even if they had waived them in a previous examination.

Forensic testing will also be required within a certain time frame for victims of sexual assault, if the victim consents to the test. The submission of a sexual assault kit that allows an examiner to collect biological evidence from an alleged victim will be also be required.

Ward’s bill will also establish the Rights of Survivors of Sexual Assault Task Force to ensure that the requirements detailed in this act are properly followed and reported.

“I want justice for all crimes, especially for victims of sexual assault,” Ward said. “This bill reinforces a safe, secure, and fair process for victims of sexual assault in our state, ensuring that they can have justice.”

This bill does not require any victims to consent to any part of the process that this act details.

“I understand that there is trauma that comes with being a part of such a horrific event as sexual abuse,” Ward said. “With this bill, I want anyone who has been victimized in this way to understand that they have rights and deserve justice.”  

Senate Bill 388 would require the Attorney General’s office to work with the task force and other authorities to create a sexual assault kit tracking system, compile data, and submit reports to the Legislature.

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Republican Senator Cam Ward represents District 14 in the Alabama State Senate, which includes all or parts of Shelby, Bibb, Chilton, Hale, and Jefferson counties. He serves as Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Follow him on Twitter: @SenCamWard

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House Gives Final Passage to Ward Human Trafficking

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The Alabama House of Representatives passed SB179 yesterday, a bill that establishes severe penalties for those found guilty of obstructing an investigation into human trafficking, which includes child sex trafficking The legislation, sponsored by Senator Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) and a part of Senate Republicans’ “Fighting for Alabama” 2018 agenda, received bipartisan support.

The bill would enhance the penalties already in place, increasing the maximum offense to a Class A felony, with a minimum jail sentence of ten years. Under current law, the obstruction of an investigation into human trafficking is only a Class C felony – meaning conviction could result in merely one year in prison.

The bill closes a critical loophole in the current law, according to Senator Ward.

“This week we’ve taken another crucial step in ending this horrific practice,” Ward said. “By increasing penalties for those that would aid traffickers, we will hold them just as accountable as the traffickers themselves.”

According to the Alabama Human Trafficking Task Force, the average age of sex trafficking victims is between 11-14 years old. It is estimated that two children are trafficked into sexual exploitation every minute.

We want to give law enforcement every tool they need to ensure no child is ever harmed in this manner,” Ward said. “I want to thank my colleagues for working to do just that. I’m proud that the Alabama legislature has made this a priority.”

The bill now heads to Governor Kay Ivey for her signature.

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Republican Senator Cam Ward represents District 14 in the Alabama State Senate, which includes all or parts of Shelby, Bibb, Chilton, Hale, and Jefferson counties. He serves as Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Follow him on Twitter: @SenCamWard

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It's Time for Civility in Our Political Discourse

By Senator Cam Ward

There was a time not so long ago when civil discourse was the rule, not the exception. Intelligent men and women could vehemently disagree over an issue and then sit down to break bread together. Those days seem to have been replaced by screaming matches, angry marchers and social media comments that would make a seasoned truck driver blush.

 

It is time that we returned to a nation that understands, appreciates and embraces civil discourse, as we accomplish nothing if we cannot listen to each other and exchange ideas in a fruitful manner. Whether our disagreements are over the 2nd Amendment, our state’s drug laws or taxation, we must find it in ourselves to listen and speak to each respectfully or we have no hope of finding a resolution. Without common decency in our methods of communication, our tones and our words, we have no chance to move forward. When our words are bitter, accusatory and insulting, there is no opportunity for persuasion.

 

In the halls of the Alabama State House, in our colleges and our community centers, and in our own homes, I would encourage each of us to take a deep breath and lower our volume, choose our words carefully and listen as much as we speak and to understand that our passion for an issue is not judged by the volume of our message or the intensity of our anger. We must realize that nobody has ever been persuaded by angry comments on Facebook and no policy has ever been changed as the result of a Twitter troll attack. If we can return to a time of civility in debate, on both the political and interpersonal fronts, I believe we can see a return to a time when our divisions were not so deep and our blood pressures were not so high. I know we will get more accomplished.

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Gov. Ivey Speaks at Shelby County GOP

By MICHAEL BROOKS / Guest Columnist

HOOVER – Gov. Kay Ivey said Alabama’s ship of state has been “steadied,” but now it’s time to “steer forward” to benefit future generations.

Ivey was keynote speaker at the Shelby County Republican Party’s Lincoln-Reagan Dinner on Feb. 8 at the Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover. She was introduced by Alabama House District 73 Rep. Matt Fridy.


Ivey noted that she’d been to Shelby County many times over the years, but this was her first time to be with Shelby Republicans since becoming governor on April 10.

“I became governor with three hours’ notice,” she said. “With the help of the good Lord and the good people of Alabama, we transitioned, and a dark cloud has lifted.”

Ivey said the 11 members of the Shelby County legislative delegation came to see her shortly after she took office and “explained I-65 to me!”

“We’ve begun a $60 million project to widen I-65 between Pelham and Alabaster, and to reconfigure the Highway 31 bridge in Calera, and I know this will help all of you when it’s completed in two years.”

Ivey said her administration has moved to bring needed reforms.

“We began a nepotism policy so that our employees nor their families would be eligible for state contracts,” she said.

Ivey said the governor’s office has worked for new investments in the state and encouraged current industry to expand. She touted the recent Toyota/Mazda investment of $1.6 billion and the 4,000 jobs it will bring to Huntsville.


“Our unemployment in December was at 3.5 percent,” she said. “Today we have 2.1 million Alabamians in the work force, and this is the highest number of workers in state history. And fewer Alabamians are eligible for Medicaid since they’re working. This year we’ll spend $48 million less for this program. And our institution of work requirements for Medicaid recipients has been copied by the Trump administration.”

Ivey said her educational initiative, “Strong Start, Strong Finish,” targets children reading at grade level by third grade.

“Studies show those who fall short in third grade are less likely to finish high school,” she said. “And failing to graduate from high school has economic and social implications. We want to fully implement this initiative by 2022.”

Ivey said she was proud of the education budget she’d presented to the current legislative session noting that it included pay increases for teachers.

Ivey said she also wanted to help the state’s veterans.

“My father was a World War II field artilleryman,” she said. “One out of ten Alabamians has worn a military uniform. I’ve proposed tax benefits for hiring veterans. I’ve also asked the legislature to grant free admission to state parks for all veterans. I hope they’ll do this.”

Ivey said the state’s greatest challenge is prison reform.

“The way we’ve run our prison system runs the risk of take-over by the federal government, and we don’t want that,” she said. “Our facilities are old and worn-out, and we need more funding to recruit and retain qualified corrections officers. And we must do a better job with inmate health care.”

Ivey praised the work of District 14 Sen. Cam Ward for his leadership in prison reform. She said she’d asked an additional $30 million in 2018 for prison staffing and healthcare, and $50 in 2019.

“It’s been challenging, fast and exhilarating these past months,” Ivey said. “We have an ambitious agenda. With the help of my staff, cabinet, the legislature and you, we’ll go forward to brighter days in the great state of Alabama.”

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Why Conservatives Should Support Juvenile Justice Reform

By Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas and a signatory to the Right on Crime Statement of Principles

As conservatives and people of faith, we know that a strong and united family is the best agent for meaningful change in a child's life. Sadly, when it comes to our juvenile justice system, states around the country too often rely on invasive, ineffective government interventions to correct a child's behavior.

Fortunately, Alabama is on the cusp of changing this pattern and taking steps toward a better way forward.

The Alabama legislature is considering House Bill 225, a bill introduced this session by Rep. Jim Hill and Sen. Cam Ward that will better protect public safety and hold juvenile offenders accountable, while providing families and communities with the supports necessary to turn around the lives of troubled young people.

HB 225 is based on the recommendations of the 20-member Alabama Juvenile Justice Task Force, which was appointed last year at the request of state leadership. Governor Kay Ivey asked the Task Force to assess Alabama's juvenile justice system and recommend policy solutions that would protect public safety, control costs, and improve outcomes for children and their families.

As a former Governor, I recognize this was a tall ask. But this Task Force came through; conducting a rigorous, data-driven study with input from hundreds of Alabamians and delivering a report to state leadership in December that contained some alarming findings along with a set of smart, common sense solutions.

We know from research and successful reform legislation in Texas and Georgia that sending youth to taxpayer-funded out-of-home placements for low-level offenses doesn't rehabilitate and can actually make youth more likely to reoffend when they return home. Yet in Alabama, the Task Force found that two-thirds of the youth removed from their families and placed in state custody are committed for non-felonies, such as petty theft or probation violations like missing curfew. These out-of-home placements can cost Alabama taxpayers as much as $161,694 per youth per year.

Worse, judges, probation officers, and law enforcement--especially in rural areas--lack access to the community-based programs like family therapy, mentoring, and substance abuse treatment that are shown to keep our communities safer and put youth on the right path to productive adulthood.

The Task Force's recommendations reflected in HB 225 ensure that youth who pose the greatest threat to public safety receive the most serious punishment. At the same time, they keep low-level youth with little prior history out of costly facilities, instead holding them accountable through community-based programs that cost less and work better.

Enacting HB 225 would reduce the population of youth living in state-funded facilities by 45 percent over five years, allowing for reinvestment of more than $34 million in state funds into evidence-based alternatives by 2023. By reallocating current system resources to less costly and more effective options, Alabama can help ensure that youth in the juvenile system do not exit it only to enter the adult system.

Whenever possible, the state should ensure that the punishment meets the crime, and with so many youth in state-funded facilities for low-level offenses, the legislature must act. By focusing out-of-home responses on youth who pose the greatest threat to public safety while placing low-level youth in community-based programs, Alabama will be able to respond to delinquent behavior more appropriately and ensure better outcomes for youth and families.

In addition, keeping young people who are not a threat to public safety out of juvenile justice facilities is also a moral issue. When kids are kept with their families and participate in high-quality programs that empower families and address the root causes of delinquency, they have the ability to lean on the supports in their communities while they get back on the right path.

I strongly encourage the Alabama legislature to consider HB 225. This bill represents an opportunity to join with conservatives and faith leaders across the county in supporting juvenile justice reform that reflects good governance and embodies the strong conservative principles of limited government.

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Ward Urges House to Pass Bill to Crack Down on Human Trafficking

This past week, the Alabama Senate passed Senate Bill 179, which establishes severe penalties for those found guilty of obstructing an investigation into child trafficking.

This legislation enhances the penalties already in place, increasing the offense to a Class A felony, with a minimum jail sentence of ten years. Under current law, the obstruction of an investigation into child trafficking is only a Class C felony – meaning conviction could result in merely one year in prison.

It’s a start, but it’s not enough

President Lincoln abolished slavery in the United States in 1863, but more people are subjected to slavery today, often through sex trafficking, than at any other point in human history. As Alabamians we must continue the work of the great emancipator and give sex traffickers, and those that would aid them, no refuge.

In no unequivocal terms, we have to do everything we can to protect people, and primarily children, from this horrendous practice. Human trafficking is already the second-largest criminal industry in the world today, second only to the illegal drug trade. However, it is the fastest-growing criminal industry in the world. It is only a matter of time until it becomes the largest. According to experts, more than 27 million people across the world are victims of sex trafficking.

This isn’t the faceless problem of a third-world country. Human trafficking cases are being reported in our backyard, in Montgomery County, Birmingham, Fort Payne, Madison County, Huntsville, Albertville, Guntersville, Dothan, and Mobile.

I commit to work to give law enforcement officers, investigators, and prosecutors every tool they need until this practice is dismantled. I encourage each of my colleagues to do the same. I challenge my fellow citizens to become educated, become advocates, and make your voice heard. ENDITalabama.org, a program of The Alabama Human Trafficking Task Force, is a good place to start.

It’s impossible and unconscionable for any of us to be unaware of the realities and impact of human trafficking. It’s on our doorstep and we as elected officials and citizens of this state must shine a light on this dark and evil practice. I’m proud of my colleagues for passing SB179. I urge my fellow legislators in the House of Representatives to do the same.

Republican Senator Cam Ward represents District 14 in the Alabama State Senate, which includes all or parts of Shelby, Bibb, Chilton, Hale, and Jefferson counties. He serves as Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Follow him on Twitter: @SenCamWard

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Locally Sponsored Bill Looks to Crack Down on Deadly Drug

By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor

MONTGOMERY – A locally sponsored bill being considered by the Alabama Legislature this session would provide for harsher punishments for crimes involving a deadly substance local law enforcement officers are encountering on a frequent basis, and would lower the threshold necessary for a person to be charged with trafficking the substance.

House Bill 84, which is sponsored by Rep. April Weaver, R-Brierfield, and Senate Bill 39, which is sponsored by Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, was filed for the second straight year before the 2018 session. As of Jan. 22, the bills were still in committee, pending a vote before the full Legislature.

“I feel good about it passing this year. We are going to push it hard,” Ward said during a Jan. 19 interview.

The bill was constructed a few years ago after area law enforcement agencies met with the Shelby County legislative delegation to provide their input on the growing fentanyl problem in the county and state.

“Fentanyl is used in anesthesia, but it’s being illegally trafficked. The people who are distributing this illegally are feeding on the people who have addictions,” Ward said. “You’ve seen a huge uptick in heroin overdoses because it’s being mixed with fentanyl. When that happens, it makes the heroin more powerful, but also a lot more deadly.”

Shelby County Drug Enforcement Task Force Commander Lt. Clay Hammac said the bill will allow officers to bring heavier charges against those who are distributing fentanyl.

“When we met with the delegation, we asked for the bill to identify fentanyl by name in the trafficking statute,” Hammac said. “It takes less than 2 milligrams of fentanyl to be fatal. Under the current trafficking statute, it would require a significant amount of fentanyl to hit the trafficking weight.”

If the bill passes, a person found to be in illegal possession of between a half-gram and 1 gram of fentanyl could be charged with a Class B felony count of distributing a controlled substance, which could result in a 10-year prison sentence.

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