Alabama Baptist universities among best in South for veterans

BIRMINGHAM (TAB) — Two Alabama Baptist universities ranked among top schools in the South for their programs for veterans. The University of Mobile (UM) was ranked 3rd and Samford University in Birmingham was ranked 4th in the South for Best Colleges for Veterans in the 2017 U.S. News & World Report college rankings released Sept. 13.

201 Nations LogoUM also jumped 17 spots, from 25th to 8th, for Best Regional Liberal Arts Colleges in the South.

Samford University also garnered the No. 4 spot for regional universities in the South. Samford also is ranked 3rd in the South for “A Strong Commitment to Teaching.” According to U.S. News officials, these are schools where “the faculty has an unusually strong commitment to undergraduate teaching.”

samford_university_logoFor Samford, the latest rankings come at a time of growth as it just announced its eighth consecutive year of record enrollment with 5,471 students.

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Short-term fix for Medicaid found; not a solution, bill’s sponsor says

BIRMINGHAM (Maggie Walsh) — The day before the special session ended Sept. 7, lawmakers passed a plan to buoy Medicaid with BP oil settlement money.

After two proposed lottery bills failed to offer a solution, lawmakers came together Sept. 6 to focus on BP oil settlement money, using most of the $1 billion that BP is set to pay over 18 years for the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf Coast.

In 2018 the bill (HB 36) will split the settlement between Medicaid, debt repayment and road projects in Mobile and Baldwin counties.


Gov. Robert Bentley

For the immediate $85 million need of the 2017 Medicaid budget, Gov. Robert Bentley has allocated $70 million — $50 million from the first BP payment and $20 million from the General Fund. The additional $15 million will be given directly to Medicaid from the BP settlement, according to Birmingham Business Journal.

The bill issues bonds and then uses the BP payments to pay off the bonds. It also creates the Alabama Economic Settlement Authority to issue the bonds estimated at $640 million. The money will be divided as follows:

  • $120 million to Medicaid, which is split $15 million in 2017 and $105 million in 2018.
  • $162 million to repay the General Fund Rainy Day Account. That money was used seven years ago to support the budget and must be repaid by 2020.
  • $238 million to the Alabama Trust Fund, also to replenish funds transferred a few years ago to support the budget.
  • Remaining $120 million would go to Mobile and Baldwin counties for specific road projects.

Rep. Steve Clouse

The bill also includes an amendment from Sen. Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, which earmarks at least $4 million in Medicaid funds for outpatient dialysis and reinstates Medicaid reimbursements to doctors back to what they were before Aug. 1.

Lawmakers approved the bill 22–8 in the Senate and 87–9 in the House. Bentley signed the bill into law Sept. 8.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, said, “We have not solved the problem on Medicaid. … This is just something we’ve got to continue to work on.”

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AG Strange warns against new phone scam

MONTGOMERY (Mike Lewis) — Attorney General Luther Strange warns Alabama residents of a new telephone scam in which scam artists using a faked caller ID claim to be from the Attorney General’s Office seeking payment for an old debt or bad check.

Attorney General Luther Strange RGB

Attorney General Luther Strange

“My office has logged multiple complaints today from people across Alabama reporting they’ve received phone calls from the Attorney General’s Office Investigations Division threatening them with arrest if they don’t pay off an old debt or bad check,” Strange said.

The scam callers are using “spoofing” technology to generate fake caller IDs that read the same as the Attorney General’s Office. The scam artists are attempting to pressure their victims to purchase pre-paid credit cards or other forms of payment to avoid arrest.

“Please know that any call you may receive from the Attorney General’s Office, or any law enforcement agency or court office for that matter, to collect money is a scam. Furthermore, debt collectors cannot arrest you. If, for any reason, law enforcement or the courts have an issue with you, you will usually be notified in writing and be ordered to contact the clerk’s office, either in person or by telephone.

“Persons should never assume phone calls and caller IDs which claim to be from law enforcement, the courts or the IRS, are genuine. You should always seek to verify them by first calling those agencies directly.

“Impersonating a law enforcement officer and misrepresenting the judicial process to scam people out of money is a serious crime and I encourage anyone who receives such a call to report it to my office at 1-800-392-5658,” Strange said.

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DR volunteer dies while serving in Louisiana

BATON ROUGE, La. (TAB) — Working on the First Baptist Church, Satsuma, disaster relief laundry unit team, Sonny Ellis was doing what he did best — serving people.

“He was showing the people of Denham Springs, Louisiana, an example of what Jesus would do,” said Roy Hill, pastor of First, Satsuma, who also was serving on the team.


Sonny Ellis

On Sept. 1, Ellis had just placed a load of laundry in a washing machine in the unit, which was in operation helping flood survivors. A little before lunch, Ellis, 72, lost his balance and fell out of the door of the unit and sustained brain injuries, according to Hill. Ellis was taken to Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and died later that evening.

“God is still on His throne and Jesus is still Sonny’s Savior,” Hill said on his Facebook page. “We were reminded last night at church that there are times we must prove that we believe what we say we believe. This is one of those times and (the Ellis family) is living out their faith.”

Ellis’ testimony is a unique one. His close friend, who happened to be a deacon at First, Satsuma, prayed for him and shared the gospel with him frequently. It wasn’t until about 10 years ago that the Holy Spirit moved in Ellis’ heart and he accepted Christ and was baptized, Hill explained.

“Ever since he got saved, goodness, he’s been a whirlwind of serving,” Hill said. “He would serve wherever there was a need.”

Ellis’ wife, Gloria, who serves as the church’s financial secretary, and their two daughters were able to arrive in Baton Rouge and be with him in the hospital.

Mark Wakefield, disaster relief and chaplaincy ministry strategist for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, said, “Sonny Ellis typifies the sacrifice made by so many disaster relief volunteers. All of them could and would be using their time doing other important things, but they choose involvement in the ministry of disaster relief — serving the Lord by serving others.”

The team from First, Satsuma, had been serving since Aug. 21 and was stationed at New Covenant Baptist Church, Denham Springs.

After Ellis’ death, his family requested that the laundry unit remain in operation to continue to help those in distress after the historic flooding.

Hill said the unit would remain as long as there was a need, and volunteers from First, Satsuma, would return to serve at the unit after Ellis’ funeral. At press time, volunteers from other Alabama associations were making sure the unit remained operational.

Ellis is survived by his wife, two daughters, three granddaughters and one great-grandson.

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No lottery for Alabama after ‘thoroughly confusing’ process

BIRMINGHAM (Maggie Walsh) — “The lottery bill for the 2016 special session is dead,” announced the measure’s sponsor, Sen. Jim McClendon, R-Springville, on Aug. 26 after the Senate voted against agreeing with the House changes to the bill (SB3).

The House changes included defining the lottery as paper tickets, an attempt to prohibit electronic lottery terminals, and earmarking 1 percent of lottery proceeds to rural fire departments.

It was the narrowed definition of the lottery that drove the 7–23 vote that signaled the demise of the bill, several legislators said.

Rep. John Knight, D-Montgomery, said after the two votes, “I’ve been here a while, but you are thoroughly confusing me now.”

And the rest of Alabama was right there with him.

The lottery bill’s ride through the special session was riddled with unexpected twists and turns, including confusion over when the deadline was to get the bill on the Nov. 8 ballot.

The recurring chant in the State House on Aug. 26 from legislators was “I’ve never seen anything like this,” referring to the wild ride of SB3.

For the full story, go to

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Lottery bill passes in House; back to Senate today

BIRMINGHAM (TAB) — Gov. Robert Bentley’s lottery bill, SB 3, fell two votes short of passing in the House last night, but in a surprising turn of events that includes a reconsideration motion and a re-vote, the bill was passed just before midnight.

The first vote fell 61–37 against the lottery and the second pushed it through, 64–35. Three representatives — Darrio Melton, D-Selma; Kelvin Lawrence, D-Hayneville; and David Sessions, R-Grand Bay — made the difference, voting “yes” on the second vote.

After the votes, Rep. John Knight, D-Montgomery, said, “I’ve been here a while, but you are thoroughly confusing me now.”

SB 3 now heads back to the Senate at 10 a.m. for concurrence or a conference committee since the bill was amended in the House.

Bentley and Sen. Del Marsh are still saying the lottery vote could be on the Nov. 8 ballot, but confusion continues to swirl around that claim.

To contact your Senator, visit 

The Alabama Baptist will continue to update the story as information becomes available.

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Lottery bill still in motion; will not be on Nov. 8 ballot

BIRMINGHAM (TAB) — Gov. Robert Bentley’s lottery bill, SB 3, is still moving through the House of Representatives, although it has missed the Aug. 24 deadline to make it onto the Nov. 8 ballot.

SB 3 was passed through the House Economic Development and Tourism Committee this afternoon, so it’s on to the House floor tomorrow for debate and a possible vote.

This afternoon Sen. Jim McClendon, the bill’s sponsor, and Sen. Del Marsh both claimed they had until Friday to get the measure on the Nov. 8 ballot, but Secretary of State John H. Merrill said he was confident the deadline was today. Merrill said unless a change is made to the state law that sets the deadline for getting amendments on the ballot, it will not be voted on in November.

Merrill reached out to Attorney General Luther Strange this evening for his opinion of the law “to make sure no stone is left unturned.” Strange had not responded as of press time.

The bill has language that would allow the lottery to go on the November 2018 ballot if needed or legislators could call a special election — a move that would garner less voters and cost at least $3 million, according to the Montgomery Advertiser.

The bill is an attempt to fund the state’s $85 million Medicaid shortfall by creating a statewide and Powerball lottery, a move that Bentley claims would generate $225 million in revenue.

To contact your representative, go to

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Henagar votes to go wet

BIRMINGHAM (TAB) — In DeKalb County residents voted “wet” Aug. 23 to allow alcohol sales within the city limits of Henagar, a community that has banned alcohol sales since its founding in 1855.bottle of beer

With a population of more than 2,300, the sale of packaged beer and wine by private vendors had previously been prohibited in Henagar. reported at 7:37 p.m. that the votes on the referendum during municipal elections lined up in support of alcohol sales, despite efforts by David Hairston, pastor of Henagar Baptist Church, who helped organize a “Vote NO to alcohol sales” yard sign campaign Aug. 11.

The final vote tally was 388 (57 percent) “yes” and 290 (42 percent) “no.”

The Alabama Baptist will continue to cover this wet/dry referendum vote. Look for further coverage in an upcoming issue.

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Lottery vote will not be on Nov. 8 ballot

BIRMINGHAM (TAB) — Alabama House members blocked the committee meeting on Gov. Robert Bentley’s lottery proposal this afternoon, ensuring that it will not be on the Nov. 8 ballot for Alabamians to vote on.

Bentley’s lottery bill, SB 3, had to be reviewed in a House committee today in order for the House to be able to pass it by the Wednesday deadline for the November ballot.

Rep. Ken Johnson, R-Moulton, slowed the pace for the lottery bill in what some called “an unusual move” because of a procedural rule that was not met — the meeting time wasn’t advertised 24 hours in advance, reported the Decatur Daily.

For the committee meeting to take place, four-fifths of the votes were needed. The House voted 59–33, four votes short.

The lottery bill isn’t dead, however. SB 3 could be voted on in a special election if House members agree on it. If the bill passes later in this special session, it will require a special election.

The bill is an attempt to fund the state’s $85 million Medicaid shortfall by creating a statewide and Powerball lottery, a move that Bentley claims would generate $225 million in revenue.

For more information on how a lottery is unlikely to garner $225 million, click here.

For ongoing lottery coverage, visit

To contact your representative, visit

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WMU Foundation helps Louisiana church assist flood survivors with immediate needs

Flooding in Louisiana by Ryann Mitchell

Photo by Ryann Mitchell

BIRMINGHAM (WMU Foundation, TAB) — National Woman’s Missionary Union (WMU) and the WMU Foundation awarded a $6,000 grant from the HEART (Humanitarian Emergency Aid for Rebuilding Tomorrow) Fund to First Baptist Church, Lafayette, Louisiana, for disaster relief (DR) related to the recent flooding.

“We’re helping about 40 families who are affected,” said Andrea McKenzie, minister of missions and college students at First, Lafayette. “Their homes were not in a flood zone and they do not have flood insurance. Their neighborhoods had never flooded before but now they have several inches of water in their homes.”

Church members and volunteers will use the HEART Fund grant to purchase items needed immediately such as diapers and wipes, baby formula and food. The grant also will be used to purchase gift cards that families can use to buy necessities and for cleanup and rebuilding efforts.

“When we learn of disasters we sometimes feel all we can do is pray,” explained Judith Edwards, WMU Foundation board member. “By giving to the HEART Fund, even those of us who cannot physically help can still reach out to the hurting in Christ’s name.”

The WMU Foundation is considering additional HEART Fund grants as relief and rebuilding efforts continue.

“There are immediate needs like food and shelter now, but there will be many additional needs in the days and weeks ahead,” said David George, WMU Foundation president. “We will continue to help as people face the challenges of rebuilding and putting their lives back together.”

The WMU Foundation is accepting donations to the HEART Fund for disaster relief victims online at or by mail to WMU Foundation HEART Fund, 100 Missionary Ridge, Birmingham, AL 35242.

Alabama Baptists also have boots on the ground through their trained DR volunteers and will be involved with cleanup efforts for the long run. To assist with Alabama Baptist DR efforts, visit

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