By Bill Britt and Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—On September 18 the Special Referendum to fully fund elements of the state’s faltering agency will be a crucible for the Bentley Administration.
Back in June the Governor said, “I’m not sure there is a Plan B other than massive cuts. Everything will be on the table.”
Critics and even supports of the Governor say pass or fail Bentley ”owns it.”
Recently the governor said that he is supporting the constitutional amendment but that he would not be out front leading the effort.
Several legislators who did not want to go on the record because of their relationship with the administration but did express “despair and confusion” over the governor’s “backseat driving” the CA. “We are out here everyday trying to sell this thing and now we here the governor is not taking the lead?”
They say they are perplexed at this decision, “It is a political calculation to distance the governor from the amendments failure, but this leaves us out on our on,” said and insider who is working to promote the vote. “Bentley will own this no matter what.”
Others have sighted Former Governor Bob Riley beating on Amendment One as the reason the state leader has developed cold feet.
Whatever the outcome the following is what expert feels is at stake on September 18.
A review of departments suggest that, the cuts will be drastic. The Examiner of Public Accounts will be able to do fewer audits and will have less financial oversight of state agencies. There will be layoffs in the legislative staff. Cuts to the Judicial System means that the courts can’t hear as many cases delaying some of them for months. Accused felons will either spend more time in county jails awaiting trial or will be free on bond longer. Fewer court clerks will mean delays in processing sentencing orders and more backlogs at county jails throughout Alabama.
The Department of Agriculture and Industries will have to reduce food inspections, cut salaries, and won’t be able to update computers and technology. The Alabama Attorney General will have to cut down on workers investigating child abuse and neglect. The Department of Children’s Affairs will see cuts that will be magnified by the loss of federal grant money. The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources will have to cut the number of enforcement officers to investigate poachers and Alabama’s game conservation laws.
Most severely the Department of Corrections will have to layoff up to 800 people leading to the early release of 6,500 inmates and the closing of two or more of our already understaffed state prisons. Cuts to the Criminal Justice Information Center will lead to a reduction in the reporting and tracking of criminal justice information. District Attorney’s offices all over the state will have to lay off workers leading to an increased caseload per remaining prosecutors and case backlogs. Reduced staff at ADECA will lead to fewer workers to apply for economic grants and potentially the loss of future federal grant money. Cuts to the Alabama Emergency Management Agency will lead to offices closing and more layoffs.
We have been told that the Alabama Department of Environmental Management may also receive a cut leading a smaller staff and potentially poorer enforcement of environmental regulations. Cuts at the Alabama Ethics Commission will result in in layoffs and a backlog in filings. Alabama Forensic Sciences will have to close their office in Tuscaloosa and the morgue in Huntsville. Our sources say that Forensic Sciences will be hit with a 12% staff reduction which will slow down law enforcement investigations.
The Alabama Forestry Commission will reduce staff leading to reductions in: fire prevention services, tornado cleanup, pine beetle control, and invasive species control. The Alabama Department of Public Health could eliminate as many as 400 jobs. This will result in fewer restaurant inspections, the closing of county health clinics, and reduced hours of operation at the remaining clinics.
The Department of Human Resources is anticipating cutting 133 positions. The department will close adult day care programs and there will be fewer inspectors to investigate reports of elder abuse. Reduction in staff at the Department of Industrial Relations will result in a loss of oversight of unemployment insurance programs. The Department of Labor will have fewer staff: enforcing state labor laws, providing mediation services, overseeing unions and union elections, investigating job related injuries and deaths, and enforcing child labor statutes. The Department of Mental Health could face even more cuts.
Alabama Medicaid will reduce payments to some service providers by as much as 10%. Our sources are not anticipating any cuts to children’s insurance programs or in long term care (LTC). There could be further cuts to services for adults (which already lost benefits in the FY2013 budget).
Cuts at the Secretary of State’s offices will result in staff losses possibly leading to less enforcement and potentially more voter fraud. Cuts at the Department of Public Safety will result in fewer state troopers on the road and longer lines to get driver licenses. Cuts at Pardons & Paroles will lead in fewer parole officers and less supervision of recently released felons. Cuts to the Department of Senior Services will potentially lead to less oversight of elder abuse, a reduction in legal assistance for seniors, less nutrition & wellness services, and fewer Medicare fraud prevention specialists. Cuts to the Alabama Tourism Department will make it harder to market the state to potential tourists. The State Treasurer’s office will have layoffs. The Department of Veteran Affairs will close more offices. There will be fewer services for veterans. The Department of Youth Services will have staff reductions and services. The state will be force to reduce their capacity, releasing more dangerous teens sooner. Cuts to the Alabama State Port Authority could lead to reductions in offloading tonnage and extended delays in loading and outgoing shipping capacity. Personnel cuts could lead to compromised safety and security.
With no, plan B it is likely that if the voters reject the legislature’s plan on September 18 there will be a Special Session the following week. These numbers could change in that Special Session.
Governor announces auto supplier IAC plans Alabama expansion
IAC is committing $34.3 million in new capital investment to expand its new manufacturing facility located in Tuscaloosa County.
Gov. Kay Ivey announced Monday that International Automotive Components Group North America Inc. plans to invest over $55.9 million in expansion projects that will create 182 jobs at two Alabama facilities.
“International Automotive Components is a leading global auto supplier, and I am pleased that this world-class company is growing significantly in Alabama and creating good jobs in Cottondale and Anniston,” Ivey said. “IAC’s growth plans show that Alabama’s dynamic auto industry continues to expand despite today’s challenging environment.”
Nick Skwiat is the executive vice president and president of IAC North America.
“Alabama was the logical choice due to its skilled workforce and proximity to the customer,” Skwiat said. “We are excited to see the continued growth of the automotive industry in Alabama and we plan to grow right along with it. We thank the Governor and Secretary Canfield for their leadership in this sector.”
IAC is committing $34.3 million in new capital investment to expand its new manufacturing facility located in Tuscaloosa County. This facility will produce door panels and overhead systems for original equipment manufacturers. That project will create 119 jobs at the production site in Cottondale.
IAC also plans to invest $21.6 million at its manufacturing facility located in the former Fort McClellan in Anniston. That East Alabama project will create another 63 jobs.
This project builds on a milestone 2014 expansion that doubled the size of the Calhoun County facility. There IAC manufactures automotive interior components and systems. Key components produced at the Anniston plant include door panels, trim systems and instrument panels for original equipment manufacturers.
IAC Group is a leading global supplier of innovative and sustainable instrument panels, consoles, door panels, overhead systems, bumper fascias and exterior ornamentation for original equipment manufacturers.
IAC is headquartered in Luxembourg and has more than 18,000 employees at 67 locations in 17 countries. The company operates manufacturing facilities in eight U.S. states.
“With operations around the globe, IAC is the kind of high-performance company that we want in Alabama’s auto supply chain to help fuel sustainable growth,” said Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield. “We look forward to working with IAC and facilitating its future growth in this strategic industrial sector.”
Danielle Winningham is the executive director of the Tuscaloosa County Industrial Development Authority.
“International Automotive Components is a valued part of Tuscaloosa County’s automotive sector,” Winningham said. “We are grateful for IAC’s investment in our community and the career opportunities available to our area workforce as a result of their investment.”
“The City of Anniston is excited that IAC has made the decision to expand here. I have enjoyed working with the leadership at IAC, the Calhoun County EDC, and the state of Alabama to get this project finalized,” said Anniston Mayor Jack Draper. “This is even further evidence that Anniston is indeed open for business.”
Only Michigan has more automobile manufacturing jobs than the state of Alabama. Honda, Mercedes, Hyundai, Polaris, Toyota and soon Mazda all have major automobile assembly plants in the state of Alabama.
AUM poll suggests Alabamians divided on prison reform proposals
90 percent of Alabamians favor some type of reform to the state’s prison systems, but there is little agreement on what efforts should be pursued.
Last week, a poll by Auburn University at Montgomery’s Department of Political Science and Public Administration found that approximately 90 percent of Alabamians favor some type of reform to the state’s prison systems, but there is little agreement on which reform efforts should be pursued.
- 36.6 percent: “Reduce or eliminate criminal sentences for non-violent crimes.”
- 30.3 percent: “Parole inmates convicted of non-violent crimes.”
- 25.9 percent: “Increase funding to improve existing prison facilities.”
- 21.4 percent: “Construct new prisons to be operated by the state.”
- 14.5 percent: “Contract with private firms to construct new prisons the state would then lease to operate.”
- 27.5 percent: “Increase funding for prison staff such as correctional officers, healthcare providers, educators, etc.”
- 15.2 percent: “Increase funding for probation officers.”
- 9.9 percent: “I support none of these options.”
The totals do not add up to 100 because it was a “select all that apply” poll.
Gov. Kay Ivey’s plan of signing a decades-long lease with private prison contractors was the least popular idea. Repairing the existing prisons 25.9 percent support while constructing new prisons had just 21.4 percent support.
The most popular prison reform measures, according to AUM poll director David Hughes, address prison overcrowding through criminal sentencing reforms.
“Approximately 37 percent of respondents support policies to reduce or eliminate sentences for non-violent offenders, and another 30 percent support paroling inmates convicted of non-violent crimes,” Hughes said.
The governor has included justice reform proposals in her all-encompassing plan. Those proposals were going to be considered by the Legislature in the 2020 legislative session but because of the coronavirus, the 2020 legislative session was cut short and the Legislature went home without addressing that or many other issues.
Much less popular is Ivey’s plan to build three new mega-prisons in Escambia, Elmore and Bibb counties.
“Only 21 percent of respondents supported a proposal to build new prisons the state would then directly operate,” Hughes said. “The least popular proposal we polled involved the state contracting with private firms to construct new prisons the state would then lease. Only 14 percent of respondents approved of this reform measure.”
The state has grossly underfunded its prison system for decades and the Alabama Department of Corrections is still dangerously overcrowded and understaffed, despite recent efforts by the Legislature to deal with its chronic underfunding of the system.
A U.S. Justice Department investigation begun by the Obama administration and concluded by the Trump administration declared that the state has the most dangerous prison system in the country. The prisons are plagued by rampant drug use, extreme violence, and the prisons have not done a good job at preparing prisoners to return to society.
The poor track record of rehabilitating prisoners means that inmates are released without job skills, education and still battling mental health issues and drug dependency. Too many inevitably reoffend and get sent back to prison exacerbating the overcrowding situation.
The U.S. Department of Justice warned the state in July that it was violating prisoners’ constitutional rights and that the attorney general may file or join lawsuits to intervene. A federal court has already found that the prisons were understaffed by a thousand guards and that inmates were not receiving necessary mental health care.
The AUM Poll was conducted between Sept. 30 and Oct. 3. It solicited online participation from 1,072 registered voters in Alabama. Respondents were weighted according demographic factors such as age, gender, race, education and income to produce a more representative sample of Alabama’s voting age population.
The survey has a 4-point margin of error.
Federal assistance following Sally tops $100 million, one month remains to apply
The deadline to register for assistance from FEMA and the SBA is Nov. 19, 2020.
About a month after the federal disaster declaration for Hurricane Sally, over $100 million in federal disaster assistance has been approved for survivors.
The funds include grants from FEMA, the National Flood Insurance Program and low-interest disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration to help with uninsured or underinsured losses.
“Alabamians, particularly in our coastal communities are still working to get back on their feet following the impacts from Hurricane Sally. I remain grateful to the Trump Administration and the team at FEMA for helping provide this immediate relief for Alabamians,” Gov. Kay Ivey said. “I encourage folks in the eligible counties to take advantage of any of this assistance as we work to recover from Hurricane Sally.”
FEMA disaster assistance can help you start on your road to recovery. Alabama homeowners, renters and businesses who had property damage or loss related to Hurricane Sally have one month left to register and apply for federal disaster assistance.
The deadline to register for assistance from FEMA and the SBA is Nov. 19, 2020.
“FEMA is here with our state and federal partners to help Alabama communities and survivors recover from the devastating storm and flooding,” said Allan Jarvis, federal coordinating officer for the Hurricane Sally disaster in Alabama. “Register for assistance if you have uninsured disaster losses.”
Survivors should register even if they have insurance. FEMA cannot duplicate insurance payments, but eligible homeowners and renters may be able to receive FEMA grants or SBA low interest loans for losses not covered by insurance to help pay for basic home repairs, temporary rental assistance and other needs such as replacing personal property.
Survivors in Baldwin, Escambia and Mobile counties have until Thursday, Nov. 19, to apply for federal disaster help.
Register for assistance in one of three ways:
- Online by logging onto DisasterAssistance.gov
- The FEMA app: Visit fema.gov/mobile-app or your phone’s app store
- Call 800-621-3362 or TTY 800-462-7585. Language translators also are available. Toll-free numbers are open daily from 6 a.m. to midnight CST, seven days a week. Multilingual operators are available.
Survivors who have questions about SBA low-interest disaster loans may contact the Disaster Assistance Customer Service Center by calling 800-659-2955 (TTY 800-877-8339), email at [email protected] or visit SBA’s website at DisasterLoanAssistance.sba.gov.
Aderholt fully supports Barrett’s confirmation process
Confirmation hearings began last week and a vote on her confirmation is expected in the next week just days before the general election.
Congressman Robert Aderholt, R-Alabama, updated his constituents on the confirmation process for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett. Aderholt said, “I do support her fully and I know she will defend life, protect the Constitution, and uphold our freedoms.”
“Senate Democrats are not seriously questioning Judge Barrett on her credentials, instead they have decided to attack her character and her beliefs,” Aderholt said. “I am disappointed to see this unfold on the national stage, but I think Judge Barrett stood strong and did well during this first week of hearings.”
“While I do not have a vote in her confirmation process, I do support her fully and I know she will defend life, protect the Constitution, and uphold our freedoms when she is officially sworn in as an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court,” Aderholt said.
Barrett is a Notre Dame graduate, has served on the U.S. Seventh Court of Appeals and is a former clerk for the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
“I clerked for Justice Scalia more than 20 years ago, but the lessons I learned still resonate,” Barrett said. “His judicial philosophy is mine, too: A judge must apply the law as written. Judges are not policymakers, and they must be resolute in setting aside any policy views they might hold.”
Barrett vowed to keep an open mind on any matter that comes before the court, though Democrats fear she is prepared to overturn Supreme Court precedent on abortion rights and the Affordable Care Act.
That the Republican controlled committee will recommend that Barrett be confirmed appears certain. A vote to confirm Barrett to the nation’s highest court by the full Senate could occur just days ahead of the Nov. 3 election.
President Donald Trump has been the president of the United States for less than four years but if Barrett is confirmed, then he will have selected one third of the U.S. Supreme Court. Barrett fills a place created by the death of the late Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died in September.
Aderholt is in his 12th term representing Alabama’s 4th Congressional District. He faces Democratic nominee Rick Neighbors in the Nov. 3 general election.