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In interview Gov. Ivey says, “I’m wonderfully well”

Bill Britt

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Gov. Kay Ivey sits down for an interview with APR Editor Bill Britt and Associate Editor Susan Britt. (Chandler Walker/APR)

Earlier this week in an interview with the Alabama Political Reporter, Gov. Kay Ivey spoke on a range of topics including her first year in office, why she stands by controversial economic development bill HB317, and why calls for debates leading into the Republican primary is a stunt to draw attention away from the critical issues facing the state. She also shared her thoughts on ethics reform, offering a clear code of conduct and a surprising fix to selecting ethics commissioners in the future.

In a 40 minute conversation that, at times, moved from close tension to smiles, blushes and laughter, the 54th governor of Alabama laid out to APR why she serves, her complete trust in her cabinet and why she is running for four more years. Far from the gentle, grandmotherly image in her softly lit campaign commercial, Gov. Ivey is a tough, savvy politician who speaks her mind.

After taking the oath of office on April 10, 2017, Gov. Ivey promised to steady the ship of state and restore Alabama’s image. The governor says she feels her administration has come a long way toward fulfilling those promises.

“We certainly steadied the ship, and that had to occur,” said Ivey. “We had been under a dark cloud. The state had very little, if any, direction and people were disillusioned.”

She recalled that her first meeting after her swearing-in was with Secretary of Commerce Greg Canfield. “It was important to me to meet with him as the first meeting because I knew then as I know now – number one: how important economic development is to people. If you can find ways to put people back to work, where they can earn a living, and that goes a long way to solving problems.”

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Ivey profusely defended Canfield, who recently has been under attack by the media—especially APR— and politicos for his dogged—some say shady—support of HB317, a bill that carved out a special exception for economic development professionals who are exempt from state ethics laws.

Ivey said she had no difficulty following the ethics laws as written. “I try my best to read the law and abide by it, and I check with an attorney if I’m unclear.”

Gov. Ivey says the legislation was necessary to make Alabama competitive as it seeks to lure businesses to the state. “Well, first of all, economic development is important. Rural areas, urban areas, economic development is a necessary ongoing effort that we’ve got to be competitive – and it’s a very competitive process,” said Ivey. She said that Alabama is only one out of three states that doesn’t clarify that economic development professionals are not lobbyists. Sticking with the talking points that led to its passage, Ivey defended the bill as vital to growing the state’s economy. “More importantly is we don’t want to lose any projects that we would have lost if this had not passed,” Ivey concluded.

As for rewriting the ethics code as proposed by Republican House and Senate leadership for the 2019 regular session, Ivey wouldn’t commit but didn’t rule out calling a special session to focus attention on that one issue. She conceded that such a Herculean process would require serious preparation and intense attention to details. Lately, House and Senate leadership has cited the stringent ethics laws as to why lawmakers are leaving office and why they are having trouble finding candidates. Recently, Republican Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, from Anniston, said that under current ethics laws only wealthy individuals or retirees would run for office.

Ivey said she had no difficulty following the ethics laws as written. “I try my best to read the law and abide by it, and I check with an attorney if I’m unclear,” said Ivey. When asked why everyone in public service couldn’t follow her example, she replied, “I’m sure they could.”

The governor said she had been thinking about how ethics commissioners are appointed and finds that there is potential for a conflicting interest since commissioners are chosen by the speaker of the house, lieutenant governor and governor.

“I find it sort of curious and troubling a little bit that the governor, lieutenant governor, and the speaker of the house are the three people that currently make appointments to the commission,” Ivey said. “We three serve under the provisions the commission is charged with enforcing, so it seems troubling to me that – I’m going to appoint you to the Ethics Commission, and then somebody brings charges on me and you’re going to sit in judgment of me.” She says it makes more sense to change the appointment process so the commission appointments are made by the chief justice of the Supreme Court, presiding judge of the Court of Criminal Appeals and presiding judge of the Court of Civil Appeals. “They answer to the Court of Judicial Inquiry under Alabama state law. And they’d be independent,” she said.

Recently, Ivey has come under attack by certain media outlets and Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, who claims she is avoiding a head-to-head debate match-up with her Republican primary challengers. “This race is not going to be about stunts to attract media attention. This race is going to be about the individuals’ records, and mine’s an open book,” Ivey said. “Under my leadership, we got jobs, unemployment’s low. We put our people back to work, and Alabamians know that.” Ivey seemed to enjoy taunting the media and her rivals but recounting her success over the last year. Current polls show Ivey’s approval rating steady at over 60 percent favorable. “But anyway, my schedule is just not such that I can let the media or campaigns dictate my schedule. I’ve got to govern, and I plan to govern,” she said.

“This race is not going to be about stunts to attract media attention. This race is going to be about the individuals’ records, and mine’s an open book.”

During the interview, Ivey defended the state’s decision to hire Wexford Health Sources, Inc., to provide healthcare services for its beleaguered prison system despite the company’s potential financial collapse under the weight of the impending lawsuit in Mississippi. Citing her confidence in the department of correction’s commissioner, Jeff Dunn, Ivey felt Wexford was the right choice after a point by point comparison of the three companies vying for the hundred million dollar contract. Despite Wexford being sued by the state of Mississippi for its part in a bribery scandal relayed to its DOC commissioner, who now resides in prison, she was comfortable with Dunn’s choice. Ivey said she seemed to recall reports that Wexford was not involved in the scandal. APR could not readily identify a report that exonerated Wexford.

Confidence in her cabinet is high according to Gov. Ivey, who said of its members, “They are strong people, with expert knowledge in their subject matter, and also, highly intelligent and deeply committed to providing an open, honest and transparent state.”

Ivey says her commitment to serving goes back to her youth when she was elected lt. governor at Girls’ State, a summer leadership and citizenship program sponsored by The American Legion and the American Legion Auxiliary for high school juniors. “I’ve long had a passion for helping others, whether it was being lieutenant governor at Girls’ State or vice president of the student body at Auburn University. I’ve always had a passion for helping people do more than they thought they could.”

When asking about her health and grueling schedule, she replied, “I’m wonderfully well. After visiting with y’all, I’m fixing to leave and head to Escambia County for the night. I’m doing fine.”

She will face a roster of men in the Republican primary in June.

 

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Elections

Opinion | Kay Ivey’s official calendar is surprisingly empty

Josh Moon

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In late-August and early-September, there was one question dominating Alabama’s governor’s race.

Where is Kay Ivey?

The governor at that point had scarcely been seen in a few days. In one 10-day stretch, she held no public events and somehow managed to avoid even local ribbon cuttings and bridge openings. And her opponent’s campaign was raising questions about her lack of activity.

Walt Maddox, at that point, had already challenged Ivey to a series of debates. She declined, offering a number of excuses, including that she was “busy governing the state.” She had also told her Republican primary challengers that she was “too busy” to debate them.

So, I wanted to know: Who was telling the truth? Was it a big deal? Was Ivey too busy?

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There was only one way to find out: I filed an Alabama Open Records Act request for Ivey’s official calendar for a three-week span (Aug. 24 through Sept. 14).

That span, I figured, would provide a solid look into Ivey’s days and would cover all of the days that the Maddox campaign had questioned her whereabouts.

On Wednesday, after paying $17 and some change to a public entity to produce public records that the public had already paid to be produced once, APR was provided with copies of Ivey’s official calendar.

Counting every entry on the calendar for 21 days — including travel time to and from the governor’s mansion (which apparently takes 30 minutes) and air travel to a variety of meetings and ribbon cuttings — there are less than 60 hours accounted for.

That’s less than three hours per day.

But it’s actually worse than that, because most of that time is compacted into a handful of days, leaving large chunks of time — whole calendar pages — simply blank.

In total, seven days were blank. Three other days had just one entry.

In one calendar week — Sunday, Sept. 2, thru Saturday, Sept. 8 — Ivey’s calendar shows just three and a half hours of scheduled time.

That week, her days were completely blank on Sunday, Labor Day Monday and Tuesday. She had a single phone call on Wednesday and a single meeting on Thursday. She hosted the Alabama Association of Regional Councils on Friday morning and wrapped up the grueling week with a proclamation signing at 10:30 a.m. that Friday.

I’ll remind you that this is the governor — a governor in the midst of a campaign.

You would think her calendar would be crammed with events and meetings and staff scrums and trips all over the place.

But … there’s just nothing.

And that’s not normal. I know that for a fact.

I’ve been to the Alabama Archives and sorted through the official calendars for the last three governors of this state. None of their calendars look like Ivey’s. Not even close.

I shared photos on Facebook Wednesday night of entries from random days on Robert Bentley’s calendar. In some instances, his days spilled over onto a second page.

The same was true with Bob Riley. His days, like Bentley’s, seemed to be planned from morning until night. Every day. Even on the weekends.

What’s happening with Kay Ivey should raise eyebrows and a ton of questions. Mainly: Can she actually do this job?

I think that’s a fair question at this point, after the public freeze-ups, the long disappearances, the managed time by her staff, the refusal to debate, and now these nearly blank calendar days.

And then there are two other questions:

Who is running this state?

And who are you voting for?

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Elections

Anti-abortion group National Right to Life endorses Ivey

Brandon Moseley

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National Right to Life announced their endorsement of Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R) in the Nov. 6 general election.

Ivey said she proudly accepted the endorsement from National Right to Life, the third pro-life organization to endorse Ivey as Governor.

In a letter announcing their support for Kay Ivey, National Right to Life Executive Director David O’Steen and Political Director Karen Cross described Governor Ivey as a “strong advocate for life.”

National Right to Life applauded Governor Ivey’s support of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act as well as her opposition to using taxpayer dollars to fund abortions and abortion providers.

“All Alabama voters who are concerned with the right to life and with the protection of the most vulnerable members of the human family should vote to reelect you as governor so that you can continue to advance vital pro-life public policies,” said Cross and O’Steen.

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Governor Ivey’s opponent, Tuscaloosa Mayor Walter “Walt” Maddox (D) has been running ads touting his pro-life and pro-gun credentials, which is odd for the modern Democratic Party; but Ivey is the one with the endorsements from the Susan B. Anthony List, Alabama Citizens four Life, and the National Rifleman’s Association (NRA). The NRA magazines with their Kay Ivey endorsements arrived in NRA households across Alabama on Tuesday.

“This endorsement reflects your commitment to strengthening a culture of life. We look forward to working with you to protect the most vulnerable members of the human family – unborn children and medically dependent or disabled persons – whose lives are threatened by abortion or euthanasia,” said Cross and O’Steen in their letter.

Kay Ivey has served two terms as Alabama’s state Treasurer and two terms as the Lieutenant Governor. She was elevated to Governor in April 2017 when then Governor Robert Bentley (R) resigned after the House Judiciary Committee began impeachment hearings. Ivey grew up on a cattle farm in Wilcox County, attended Auburn University, went to work as a school teacher, then went to work in state government.

Ivey’s campaign is emphasizing her administration’s strong job growth, robust economic growth, increasing pre-K access, and workforce development as reasons to elect her as governor. Mayor Maddox’s campaign is promising to extend Medicaid benefits to more people, raise fuel taxes, a state-sponsored lottery, taxing sports gambling, and a gambling agreement with the Poarch Creek Indians.

The general election will be on Tuesday, November 6. Also in this election, voters gets to vote on Amendment Two which states that nothing in the Alabama Constitution can be construed as allowing abortions to take place. The growing pro-life movement is hopeful that the U.S, Supreme Court will eventually overturn the highly controversial Roe versus Wade ruling that forced the states to allow abortion on demand.

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National

Brooks warns of potential debilitating national insolvency after deficit jumps 17 percent

Brandon Moseley

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U.S. Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville, issued a warning about the potential for a “Debilitating National Insolvency and bankruptcy that robs America of the prosperity and peace we have long enjoyed” following the release of the Treasury Department’s preliminary Fiscal Year 2018 deficit projection of $779 billion and the Comptroller General’s statement that America’s fiscal path is “unsustainable.”

“Yesterday’s Treasury Department report confirms that, when it comes to financial responsibility, Washington is a total and complete bipartisan failure,” Brooks said. “Thankfully, because of free-enterprise economic reforms, America’s economy is booming and federal revenues are up. Unfortunately, Washington spending has once again outstripped and left revenue growth in the dust.”

“At $779 billion for FY 2018, America’s deficit is 17 percent worse than last year’s $666 billion deficit. [3] Worse yet, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that next year’s deficit will near the $1-trillion mark,” Brooks wrote in a statement. “Even worse yet, the CBO estimates all subsequent deficits will blow past $1 trillion per year. [4] America’s total debt has exploded to $21.5 trillion. [5] U.S. Comptroller General Gene Dodaro has once again evaluated America’s deficit and debt situation and warned Washington that our financial path is ‘unsustainable’ (accounting language for ‘an insolvency and bankruptcy is in America’s future if we do not change our financially irresponsible path’).”

“American taxpayers shelled out about $325 billion in debt service costs in Fiscal Year 2018,” Rep. Brooks continued. “To put $325 billion into perspective, it is more than 15 times what America spends annually on NASA and more than 6 times what the federal government spends annually on transportation. Absent constructive change, the CBO warns Washington that debt service costs will exceed $800 billion per year within a decade. [7] $800 billion is more than what America currently spends on national defense.”

“This financial data points to one dangerous outcome: a debilitating national insolvency and bankruptcy that robs Americans of the prosperity and peace we have long enjoyed,” Rep. Brooks warned. “I cannot overemphasize how the voting public throughout America must do a far better job of studying and understanding economic issues well enough to elect senators and congressmen who have both the intellect to understand the threat posed by America’s deficits and accumulated debt and the backbone to do what it takes to prevent the economic destruction of a nation it took our ancestors centuries to build.”

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The primary driver of the debt has been entitlements, Brooks said. So-called “mandatory spending” on expensive social programs including: Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security are increasing much faster than federal revenues or GDP. The Republican Congress has increased spending on Defense, cut taxes, but has not addressed exploding entitlement costs. The improving economy also means rising interest rates which dramatically increases the cost of servicing the national debt, which has ballooned to $21,634 billion.

Congressman Mo Brooks is seeking his fifth term in the United States Congress. He faces former Huntsville city attorney Peter Joffrion in the general election on November 6.

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Department of Labor to hold job fair for prospective coal miners

Brandon Moseley

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The Alabama Department of Labor announced that they are holding a job fair for prospective coal miners.

The Jasper Career Center is hosting a Job Fair for Jennmar Services on Thursday, October 25 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. It will be held at the Career Center located at 2604 Viking Drive in Jasper.

Jennmar Services is a full-service staffing company for coal and hard rock mining, oil, gas, and manufacturing industries. They will be recruiting for both Inexperienced underground coal miners (Redhats – Apprentice Miners) and experienced underground coal miners (Blackhats).

Inexperienced miners need to have passed the MSHA 40 Mining Course. It must be current. 5000-23 must be within the past three years.

Experienced underground coal miners need to have their Alabama Miner’s Certification and annual refresher course. Those credentials must be current.

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The event is free and open to the public and as always, veterans will receive priority service. Job seekers should bring their résumé, are encouraged to dress professionally, and should be prepared to interview.
If job seekers need a résumé, they can visit the career center ahead of time for assistance. Jobseekers must bring all certifications to the job fair.

For more information, contact the Jasper Career Center at 205-221-2576 or [email protected]

Free services available to job seekers at the local Career Center include resume assistance, interview preparation, job search assistance, and access to many educational and vocational training programs.

Employer services include free job postings, employee screenings, access to interview space, and valuable training programs and tax credits.

From 2009 to 2015, the coal industry declined, leaving workers and communities desperate. Over 36,000 jobs were lost. From 2009 to 2015, American coal production declined by over 177,000,000 tons, and over 600 coal mines closed.

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In interview Gov. Ivey says, “I’m wonderfully well”

by Bill Britt Read Time: 7 min
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