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Shelby’s Chief of Staff Katie Britt chosen to lead Business Council of Alabama

Brandon Moseley

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Friday, U.S. Senator Richard Shelby, R-Ala., announced the departure of his chief of staff, Katie Boyd Britt, following the official notice of her decision to serve as President and CEO of the Business Council of Alabama, a non-partisan business association representing companies throughout the state.

“Katie Britt is an exceptional choice to serve as CEO of the Business Council of Alabama,” said Senator Shelby. “She has been invaluable as my chief of staff over the last several years. Although I am disappointed to see her go, I know that my loss is BCA’s gain. Throughout Katie’s time in my office, she demonstrated a unique ability to solve any problem. Not only did she work as my top advisor on all matters, but she also developed bipartisan relationships with lawmakers, top committee and leadership staff, and stakeholders to successfully negotiate complex issues and legislation. Katie understands the intersection of business and politics. I have no doubt that her experience in Alabama and the Senate will establish her as an asset to BCA.”

“We are excited to welcome Katie as the BCA’s new president,” said Alabama Power CEO Mark Crosswhite, who chairs the BCA’s Executive Committee. “As the top staff member for Senator Shelby, she has worked daily with businesses and elected officials from around Alabama and the country. She also has a special ability to work with and unite people from all walks of life. She has all of the tools we were looking for to support the business growth across the state that will drive our economy in the years ahead.”

BCA Executive Committee Member Carl Jamison said Britt brought to the table the qualities and experience needed to successfully move BCA forward.

“BCA has an important responsibility to its members and to our state moving forward,” Jamison said. “With Katie’s energy and experiences in Montgomery and Washington, she understands the constructive role BCA can play.”

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“I am grateful for Katie’s leadership and ability to prioritize what’s best for our state. It is with pride that I wish her, Wesley, Bennett, and Ridgeway all the best as they return to Alabama,” concluded Shelby.

Katie Boyd Britt is a native of Enterprise. She has served as chief of staff to Senator Shelby since 2016, following her role as deputy campaign manager and communications director during the Senator’s most recent reelection campaign.

“My heart is in Alabama,” said Britt. “Our state has made significant progress in recent years, and I am honored to have been chosen to lead BCA during this time of growth. I look forward to building on that momentum through collective efforts with our BCA members, elected officials, and business allies across the state – identifying opportunities every day in which we can provide and advance real, tangible solutions. BCA’s successes are Alabama’s successes, and our unique ability to take on big challenges and deliver strategic results will advance our economy and best serve the men and women who make up the backbone of our state.”

“It has been my life privilege to serve and assist Alabama’s greatest statesman,” Britt said. “I am very eager to apply the lessons I learned from him in this new position. I am certain the invaluable experiences of touring every county in Alabama with Senator Shelby, and meeting so many Alabamians, will serve me well as I work to create opportunities for all Alabama business.”

Britt said that a strong BCA is vital for Alabama’s success as a state and for its residents.

“From the Tennessee Valley to the Wiregrass and then over to Mobile Bay, we have a remarkably diverse economy,” Britt said. “But to ensure Alabama’s future success, we must encourage policies and priorities that strengthen our businesses and provide opportunities for our citizens.”

Britt first joined Senator Shelby’s staff in May 2004, as deputy press secretary and later served as press secretary until 2007. After working on Capitol Hill, she served as special assistant to The University of Alabama President, Robert E. Witt. Britt later received a law degree from The University of Alabama School of Law. She also received a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science with a minor in Blount Liberal Arts. While there, she served on the John A. Campbell Moot Court Board and represented the School of Law on the school’s Tax Moot Court team. Following graduation, Britt practiced law at Johnston Barton Proctor & Rose LLP in Birmingham and later at Butler Snow LLP in both Birmingham and Montgomery. There, her practice was focused on general corporate law, specifically mergers and acquisitions. During her time at Butler Snow, Britt started and led the firm’s government affairs practice in the state of Alabama.

Katie Boyd Britt is married to Wesley Britt, who started 46 games on the offensive line of the University of Alabama football team and played four years in the NFL for the New England Patriots. He is an economic development representative for Alabama Power.

Britt fills a role that Billy Canary vacated when he left to accept a position at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. After the Republican landslide win in 2010, Canary surpassed AEA Executive Secretary Paul Hubbert (now deceased) as the most influential lobbyist in the state. Canary, however, was widely criticized for his role in the 2016 corruption trial of former Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn. Canary was never indicted, but the hit to his reputation has been credited with the failure of efforts to convince legislators to support a controversial plan for a massive increase in fuel taxes to support a bond issue for road construction. It has failed for the past three legislative sessions. The gas tax increase is, however, likely to be brought back again in 2019, after the election. The road builders and county commissioners are eager for new funds for transportation projects.

BCA was founded in 1985 as an organization to consolidate the Alabama Chamber of Commerce and the Associated Industries of Alabama. The organization aims to improve the state’s overall business climate and serves an instrumental role in securing passage of a number of reforms in the areas of tax credits for small businesses, job creation, economic development, ethics reforms and the public education system. BCA is also the exclusive affiliate in Alabama for the National Association of Manufacturers and the U.S Chamber of Commerce.

Wikipedia was referenced in the writing of this article.

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Economy

Alabama Career Center System to host emergency meetings for Virginia College students, employees

Brandon Moseley

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Wednesday, the Alabama Career Center System, in cooperation with the Alabama Community College System, AIDT, the Southwest Alabama Partnership for Training and Employment (SWAPTE), and the Rapid Response Team (part of the Dislocated Worker Unit at the Alabama Department of Commerce) announced that there will be emergency information sessions for students and employees who have been impacted by the sudden closings of four Virginia College campuses across the state. The closures affected approximately 1,100 Alabama students.

Last week the Education Corporation of America (ECA) announced that it would be abruptly closing its campuses in Alabama and across the country. ECA represents Brightwood Career Institute, Brightwood College, Ecotech Institute, Golf Academy of America, and Virginia College throughout the country. ECA is based in Birmingham and operates for-profit Virginia College campuses in Birmingham, Huntsville, Mobile, and Montgomery. Many of those students were using their G.I. benefits and/or student loans to fund their educations.

The Alabama Career Center announced that degree and training programs are available to students through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), including full and partial funding for two and four-year degree programs, vocational and industrial training, and more. Qualified applicants can participate in these programs at no charge. Employees can also take advantage of benefits such as mortgage assistance and unemployment insurance, among others.

“We realize that many students were left without options with this closing,” said Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington. “There are many programs available and we want to be sure that students know about them. In some cases, they may be able to finish their education at no cost. Affected employees should also attend to find out what services may be available to them.”

The meetings will be held in Mobile, Birmingham, Montgomery, and Huntsville.

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Meeting info is as follows:

In Mobile, Thursday, December 27 at the Mobile Career Center, 515 Springhill Plaza Court, Mobile 3606 at 2:00 p.m. 251-461-4146,

In Montgomery, Wednesday, December 19 at Montgomery Career Center; 1060 East South Blvd. Montgomery 36116 at 1:00 p.m. 334-286-1746

In Birmingham, Monday, December 17 at the Birmingham Career Center; 3216 4th Avenue South; Birmingham 35222 at 10:00 a.m. 205-582-5200

In Huntsville, Wednesday, December 19 at the Huntsville Career Center; 2535 Sparkman Dr. NW; Huntsville, AL 35810 at 2:00 p.m. 256-851-0537

Space is limited, so students should call ahead to reserve a spot.

Information about these programs can also be found at:
www.joblink.alabama.gov.

The Alabama Department of Labor / The Alabama Career Center System is a partner in Alabama Works, Alabama’s unified workforce system.

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Economy

Farm Bill passes the House of Representatives

Brandon Moseley

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Wednesday, the bipartisan 2018 Agriculture and Nutrition Act, H.R.2, better known as the Farm Bill, passed the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill covers agriculture subsidies, conservation, rural development and nutrition.

The Farm Bill reauthorizes farm programs and directs the nation’s agricultural policy for the next five years. The House and Senate had both passed differing versions of the Farm Bill prior to the general election. Following the Thanksgiving break, a conference committee met to resolve the differences between the two versions of the bill. This is the conference committee version.

“In Alabama’s Second District, agriculture is the largest employer. It is imperative that Congress honor our commitments to the hardworking farmers and producers across the country,” U.S. Representative Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) said. “The 2018 farm bill provides certainty to the American families who work every day to provide the food and fiber we depend on. I was proud to support this legislation on behalf of the farmers I represent, and I am eager to see President Trump sign it into law.”

The 2018 Farm Bill supports and sustains Alabama’s farmers and foresters by reauthorizing farm programs and directing the nation’s agricultural policy for the next five years. Despite recent gains in manufacturing, Alabama remains an agriculture state. Farming, forestry, livestock and crop production represent more than $70 billion in annual economic output in Alabama.

Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-Montrose) said: “Our farmers and foresters are our future. I am pleased to support this bipartisan legislation to better support our farmers in Alabama and throughout the country.”

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“The 2018 Farm Bill will allow for improved crop protections and loan options for farmers, incentivize rural development, support animal disease prevention and management, and will continue our nation’s commitment to agriculture and farmers,” Rep. Byrne said. “I am especially pleased to see the substantial resources provided to improve rural broadband access to communities. Providing Internet access to people in rural Alabama is absolutely critical to economic development and the success of these communities in the 21st Century.”

Roby’s office said that H.R. 2 improves agriculture policy by: Providing a nationwide yield update for Price Loss Coverage (PLC), beginning with the 2020 crop year and allowing PLC to better respond to market conditions; Making several key improvements to Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC), including increased yield plugs and yield trend adjustments; Protecting and improving crop insurance; Investing in research, extension, and education projects; and Protecting farmers from additional costly and burdensome red tape.

H.R. 2 also strengthens the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) capacity to combat the opioid crisis and refocuses efforts to expand quality broadband to rural America.

The conference report to accompany H.R. 2 passed the House by a vote of 369 to 47. The Senate approved the bill yesterday 87 to 13. It now goes to the White House where it awaits President Donald J. Trump’s (R) signature.

The current legislation has been praised by farm groups for preserving safety nets for farmers while enhancing conservation and increasing USDA loan availability. One thing the bill doesn’t have is tighter work requirements for supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP – commonly still called food stamps) recipients, which was the major difference between the House bill, which only had Republican votes, and the more bipartisan Senate version.

Alabama Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries John McMillan (R) explained that the farm bill protects more than just farmers. It serves to protect land and natural resources, develops new trade opportunities, levels the playing field for producers, strengthens rural communities and provides nutritious foods for underserved families.

“Alabama is blessed to have a congressional delegation in Washington that understands the importance of agriculture,” said Commissioner McMillan. “Our nation’s food security depends on strong agricultural policies that provide stability for America’s farmers and ranchers.”

With the President’s signature, this will be the first time since 1990 that Congress has enacted the Farm Bill in the same year it was introduced. It would also be the first time since 2002, that the new Farm Bill was enacted in the same year that the old one expired.

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Economy

As lawmakers consider new gas tax, Alabama remains last in per capita state, local tax collection

Chip Brownlee

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As state lawmakers prepare to consider a gas tax increase during the next legislative session, a new report from the Public Affairs Research Council shows Alabama’s state and local governments collect less in taxes per capita than any other state in the country.

Alabama has been behind in tax collection since the early 1990s, according to the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama, which has produced an analysis of Alabama’s tax revenues since 1988.

“This is not a new finding,” the PARCA report says. “This has been true since the early the 1990s. And it underlies the difficulties we face when trying to provide to our citizens the level of government services enjoyed by citizens in other states.”

Lawmakers have flirted with a gas tax increase in recent years, and proponents say it is imperative to raise revenues to invest in Alabama’s aging infrastructure.

In Alabama, the gas tax hasn’t been increased since 1992, when lawmakers added 5 cents to the gallon, and the state ranks 35th in per capita state and local collections on motor fuel.

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Several neighboring states have increased their motor fuels taxes in recent years, leading to Alabama’s rank declining relative to other Southeastern states. In 2016, only South Carolina collected less in motor fuels taxes, but South Carolina will likely surpass Alabama in the next few years because it adopted a plan recently to gradually increase its gas tax, and its rate now exceeds Alabama’s.

It isn’t just the gas tax that hasn’t really been adjusted in years.

Alabama’s low taxes — while they may be a positive for your pocketbook — are often the single largest contributor to near-perpetual budget crises in Montgomery, placing a significant barrier for lawmakers as they balance the two state budgets every year. It’s a constitutionally mandated requirement.

While budgeting over the last two years in Alabama has been a smoother process — largely because the state has had billions on hand from a settlement with BP Oil over the 2011 Deepwater Horizon oil spill —Alabama is expected to face another budget shortfall this year.

The last major budget shortfall in 2015 led to an increase of some taxes, including the cigarette tax and taxes on nursing home beds — but property and income taxes haven’t moved much in years. Alabama’s extremely low property taxes are the main reason tax collections fall below other states.

If Alabama’s per capita property tax collections matched the average of other Southeastern states, state and local governments would have an additional $2 billion — yes, billion with a “b” — to spend on services and education, and the overall tax revenue per capita would be in the middle of other Southern states.

Though Alabamians are some of the most averse to taxes, the meager tax collections result in a strained pool of money for popular public services like schools, roads, courts, health care and public safety.

While Alabama has avoided passing general tax increases, it has turned to selective sales taxes. Alabama ranks high in per capita collections on alcoholic drinks (No. 3 in the U.S.) and on public utilities (No. 5) in the U.S.

PARCA conducted the analysis of Alabama’s tax revenues by relying on the U.S. Census Bureau and its annual survey of state and local governments across the country. The Census Bureau data makes it possible to compare the finances of state and local governments across the 50 states.

This year’s data is from 2016, the latest available, and tax rates haven’t changed much at all since then.

State and local spending are considered together because states vary in how they decide to divide up the taxation and collection responsibilities for funding public services and government.

Alabama has the lowest property taxes, both state and local, in the country, ranking 50th of the states. Alabama’s property taxes fund education, state and county general funds and county road and bridge funds.

The base of wealth in Alabama is also smaller than most other states, which also contributes to lower taxes. In Alabama, taxes amount to 8.2 percent of the total personal income earned by state residents, when comparing total personal income to total state and local taxes collected. Tennessee and Florida have lower tax rates as a percentage of percental income, and Georgia and Florida have lower taxes as a percentage of GDP.

Alabama and its local governments have developed a reliance on the sales tax and already has some of the highest sales tax rates in the country, ranking 29th in the U.S. And unlike other states, our sales tax applies to groceries and medications.

Sales taxes are often considered regressive because they more heavily affect low-income individuals than high-income individuals. Alabama is one of three states that continue to apply sales tax fully to groceries without providing offsetting relief for low- and moderate-income families.

At the same time, Alabama’s sales tax is not as broad as other states and doesn’t apply to most services. Despite higher taxes, Alabama’s sales tax isn’t as productive as other states.

Alabama sales tax applies to almost all sales of goods, but it does not apply the tax to most kinds of business, professional, computer, personal or repair services. And in recent years, the economy has moved more toward the consumption of those services, lessening the effectiveness of Alabama’s sales tax.

In 2016, the last year the Census Bureau performed its analysis, state and local governments collected a total of $15.6 billion in taxes or $3,203 per resident. Across the U.S., the median per capita value for state and local taxes was more than $1,281 higher at $4,484.

If Alabama collected taxes at the per capita rate of the median state, local and state governments in Alabama would have an additional $6.2 billion to spend on building roads, providing public safety protection, operating courts, supporting schools and colleges and maintaining parks and libraries.

Even if national comparisons are ignored, Alabama stands out among other Southern states when it comes to revenue.

Arkansas, North Carolina, Louisiana, Kentucky, Georgia, Mississippi, Florida, South Carolina and Tennessee all collect significantly more taxes per capita.

If Alabama collected taxes at the same rate as Louisiana, for example, the state would have about $3.2 billion more in tax revenue. If it collected the same amount of revenue as Arkansas, it would have $3.7 billion more.

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The full report is available here.

 

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Economy

Shaw Industries expands Andalusia plant

Brandon Moseley

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Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey was in Andalusia at the Shaw Industries carpet plant. The Shaw Industries Group, Inc. announced that is investing $250 million in its Andalusia manufacturing facility, which creates fiber used to manufacture residential carpet.

“Visiting Covington Co. this morning to celebrate @Shaw_Inc’s $250 million investment in their Andalusia Fiber Manufacturing Plant,” Gov. Ivey said on Twitter. “Glad to see this company is growing and succeeding by improving efficiency & production, as well as safety at Plant 65.”

Ivey was joined by Andalusia Mayor Earl Johnson, Covington County Commission Chairman Greg White, and Shaw associates in a celebration of recent achievements at Andalusia’s Plant 65.

The project includes construction of new and expanded building assets and installation of substantial amounts of new manufacturing equipment.

“At Shaw, our vision is to create a better future for our associates, our customers, our company, and our communities,” said Shaw Industries Executive Vice President David Morgan. “We can only achieve that vision through continued investment in our people, our products, our facilities, and our operations. We continually bring customers the forward-thinking products and services they expect from Shaw.”

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The changes will create even better efficiency, production, ergonomics, and safety for the more than 1,200 associates who work at the plant. Construction began a little over a year ago and modernization efforts will continue through 2020. The facility remains operational throughout the transition.

“Shaw’s operations are more complex than ever,” said the plant manager for Plant 65 Ron Fantroy. “As a result, almost every job at Shaw — from designers and data scientists to machinists and managers — requires a higher skill level than in the past. Shaw benefits from a talented, well-trained associate base in Covington County, where it is the county’s largest employer.”

Andalusia is in Alabama’s Second Congressional District, AL-02, and is represented by Congresswoman Martha Roby (R-Montgomery).

“Great economic news in AL-02: Last week, Shaw Industries, which employs more than 1,000 Alabamians, formally announced plans to invest $250 million into its Andalusia carpet manufacturing facility,” Congresswoman Roby said. “This investment includes technology upgrades with an anticipated completion date of 2020. I am thrilled to celebrate this significant contribution to our economy, and I am proud of Shaw’s growth and success in the State of Alabama.”

“Headquartered in Dalton, Georgia, Shaw Industries, Inc. is a global flooring provider with a presence throughout North America, South America, Europe, and Asia,” economic developer Nicole Jones told the Alabama Political Reporter.

“The company employs approximately 22,000 associates worldwide, including 1,000 Alabamians, and is Covington County’s largest employer. The newest investment of over $250 million will include a building expansion of Plant 65 in Andalusia as well as a substantial addition of new manufacturing equipment.”

“These investments will ensure the long-term viability of this critical operation within Shaw’s portfolio of manufacturing facilities,” Shaw Chairman and CEO Vance Bell said. “They are designed to improve the plant’s ability to compete successfully in the marketplace for the short and long term. This facility upgrade will utilize state-of-the-art technology and innovative processes that will be industry-leading in cost and quality.”

Shaw Industries Group is a subsidiary of legendary investor Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway. Shaw is the world’s largest carpet manufacturer with more than $4 billion in annual sales and approximately 22,300 employees worldwide.

“Shaw’s significant new investment in its Andalusia manufacturing facility is a welcome development that positions the plant for the future and demonstrates the company’s confidence in its large Alabama workforce,” Governor Kay Ivey said. “We look forward to working with Shaw to help its Covington County operation not only succeed but also thrive.”

“Shaw Industries, Inc. attributes its success to remaining focused on the core values recognized at its inception in 1967 – quality, service, and performance – values many Alabamians hold dear and live up to every day,” Nicole Jones added.

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Shelby’s Chief of Staff Katie Britt chosen to lead Business Council of Alabama

by Brandon Moseley Read Time: 5 min
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