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Governor says working toward smaller government

Brandon Moseley

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By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) together with the Republican super majority continued to work to make Alabama state government smaller, leaner, and more efficient.  The Governor signed three measures on Thursdays that continue to strive toward the goal of efficiency.

Governor Bentley said, “Our goal since taking office has been to make government more efficient while saving taxpayer dollars.   We are working closely with members of the Alabama Legislature to accomplish this goal.  The measures I am signing today will all help us achieve greater efficiency.”

Alabama Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard (R) from Auburn said, “While President Obama and the federal government continue to bloat and expand, Alabama is taking the necessary steps to ensure that our state is operating in the most efficient manner possible,” said Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn).  “Republicans are the party of smaller government, and we owe it to our state’s taxpayers to streamline our efforts to the best of our ability.  The bills signed by Governor Bentley today will make good on our commitment to the people of Alabama.”
Alabama Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R) from Anniston said, “When it comes to cutting costs and working toward a more efficient government, no one has been more committed to this effort than Governor Bentley and my colleagues in the Legislature.”

Alabama Lieutenant Governor Kay Ivey said, “I applaud this Legislature for making right-sizing government a priority.  Continuing economic challenges have taught us to tighten our belts and look for efficiencies in government where possible.  I am confident these measures will result in saving the state millions of dollars and will help serve the people of Alabama more efficiently and effectively.”

Senate Bill 108 merges and consolidates multiple Alabama law enforcement agencies eliminating duplication of services and administrative expenses while freeing more resources for the actual law enforcement services.  Alabama has 23 different state agencies and departments with law enforcement functions.  This will consolidate most of that into one uniformed service and one investigative service.

Gov. Bentley said, “We appreciate the service and dedication of all of our state law enforcement officers.  As we improve coordination between their departments, we’ll be able to better protect our citizens while also saving taxpayers money.”

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This effort was spearheaded by Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh who sponsored the legislation and who has been studying this for over a year.  Sen. Marsh said, “After more than two years of work involving countless hours from representatives from the law enforcement community, we have a model that will result in better, more cost-effective services to the people of Alabama.”

Rep. Mike Ball (R) from Madison said, “As a retired state trooper, oftentimes my colleagues and I would see ways that our agency and partnering agencies could be run more efficiently and effectively.  After much study and thorough investigation, this legislation will finally streamline Alabama’s law enforcement efforts while conserving taxpayer dollars and maximizing efficiency.”

Senate Bill 117 streamlines the state’s information technology (I.T.) functions.  Currently, each state agency has its own I.T. department and there is little coordination among state-level, non-education agencies. The bill creates a Secretary of Information Technology who will identify ways to save money and improve coordination within the state’s I.T. networks.  The Secretary will be responsible for developing and implementing a responsible plan to coordinate the purchasing, management and use of I.T. across state agencies.  The Secretary’s office will be overseen by a legislative oversight committee.

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Gov. Bentley said, “Our Secretary of Information Technology will help us organize I.T. to make it more efficient, to save taxpayer dollars and to make it more secure.  By improving coordination, we can make sure we’re spending money wisely and saving money where we can.”

The sponsor of the bill, Senator Phil Williams (R) from Rainbow City said, “As state operations become more and more dependent upon technology, it’s imperative that we have someone to hold accountable for making sure we’re operating in the most efficient and responsible manner. The signing of this bill marks a positive step toward significant cost savings for state I.T. functions, and I’m proud to have been a part of this effort.”

State Representative Ken Johnson (R) from Moulton sponsored the legislation in the House.  Rep. Johnson said, “As a businessman, I know that in order to keep the doors open, it’s important to maximize your efficiencies and results while minimizing your overhead.  It is imperative to have someone to hold accountable for making sure I.T. is managed in the most efficient way possible, particularly at a time when we are becoming increasingly dependent on technology to operate.”

In addition to the two efficiency bills that the Governor signed he also signed an executive order establishing an Office of Fleet Management and a Fleet Manager within the Alabama Department of Transportation.  The Fleet Manager will work with state agencies to assess the state’s current fleet of vehicles and then develop a uniform, statewide program to ensure the most efficient methods of managing those vehicles.  Bentley has instructed that the plan focus on issues like fuel efficiency and cost-effective maintenance in order to have the lowest possible cost per mile driven.

Governor Bentley said, “The Department of Transportation has done an excellent job in fleet management, and we are choosing ALDOT to oversee management of the entire state’s fleet program.  The Fleet Manager will work closely with all agencies to make this transition as efficient and seamless as possible.”

Companion legislation will soon be introduced by Senator Cam Ward (R) from Alabaster and Representative Greg Wren (R) from Montgomery to  also help support more efficient fleet management.

Sen. Ward said, “This efficiency reform to our state fleet policies will help bring Alabama’s vehicle management into the 21st century. I’ve worked on these issues since I was first elected, and I’m proud of our Governor for his forward-thinking leadership.  This not only cuts down on energy use, it will also save the state millions of tax dollars and allow us to upgrade public safety vehicles at the same time.  This reform will be an enormous savings for state government, which is a win-win for everyone.”

Rep. Wren said, “I’d like to commend Governor Bentley for working with the Legislature to create a state fleet management program within the Department of Transportation.”  “This Executive Order to create a Fleet Manager within ALDOT is consistent with Governor Bentley’s efforts to save taxpayer dollars.  I applaud the Governor and ALDOT Director John Cooper for their ongoing working relationship with the Legislature.”

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with eight and a half years at Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook. Brandon is a native of Moody, Alabama, a graduate of Auburn University, and a seventh generation Alabamian.

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Health

“An overstep”: Lieutenant governor bemoans governor’s statewide mask order

“Issuing a statewide face mask mandate, however, is an overstep that infringes upon the property rights of business owners and the ability of individuals to make their own health decisions,” Alabama’s lieutenant governor said.

Eddie Burkhalter

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Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth speaks during a video message. (LT. GOV.'S OFFICE)

Within minutes of Gov. Kay Ivey’s announcement Wednesday of her decision to issue a statewide face mask order, which goes into effect Thursday at 5 p.m., Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth came out against the measure. 

U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, however issued a statement in support of Ivey’s decision, which Jones said was evidence that Ivey was clearly following advice from health care professionals.

New cases, deaths and hospitalizations due to coronavirus have continued to surge in recent weeks, worrying public health experts as the supply of available intensive care beds stateside continues to dwindle. 

Ainsworth, who’s battled Ivey on COVID-19 matters several times throughout the pandemic, said in a statement after Ivey’s announcement that he encourages the wearing of masks and social distancing to slow the spread of COVID-19, but that he’s against a statewide order to do so. 

“Issuing a statewide face mask mandate, however, is an overstep that infringes upon the property rights of business owners and the ability of individuals to make their own health decisions,” Ainsworth said. “In addition, it imposes a one-size-fits-all, big government requirement on counties that currently have low to moderate infection rates and little need for such a mandate.”

“Masks should be worn to combat further outbreaks, and while I admire Gov. Ivey’s leadership and her on-going efforts, I also believe a statewide order is the wrong way to go about encouraging their use,” Ainsworth continued. 

Jones, however,  sees the decision as a necessary step to slow the spread of the deadly virus, which has killed at least 1,183 Alabamians so far. 

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“Governor Ivey did the right thing today by enacting a statewide mask policy. Unlike her counterparts in other Deep South states, Governor Ivey is clearly following the advice of health care professionals. Many Alabama communities in COVID-19 hotspots have already taken this step, which will help limit the spread of this virus and reduce the strain on our struggling hospitals and health care workers, and it just makes sense to do it on a statewide basis,” Jones said in a statement. “We all want to move past this deadly, disruptive pandemic. By taking the simple steps of wearing a mask and social distancing, we can each do our part to protect lives and livelihoods.”

Ainsworth early on during the pandemic urged a more strong response from the state government, then after Ivey’s series of more restrictive measures, Ainsworth flipped and began pushing for a reopening of the state’s economy despite Alabama not meeting the White House’s recommendations of declining cases for at least two weeks.

Ainsworth on June 23 announced that a staff member had tested positive for COVID-19, and that all his staffers were being tested for the virus.

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Health

Advocates warn of “imminent outbreaks” in nursing homes as cases spike

About three-quarters of all cases in U.S. nursing homes have occurred in counties where the 7-day average rate of new cases of COVID-19 was more than 3.59 per 100,000 people. The statewide 7-day average in Alabama was 34.41 new cases per day per 100,000 as of Tuesday.

Micah Danney

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Alabama’s nursing homes face dramatic increases in new novel coronavirus cases if current trends continue, according to two national organizations that are asking governors for “urgent attention and support.”

The American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living sent a letter to the National Governors Association on Tuesday warning of the danger posed to long-term care facilities in places where new cases are surging.

Given the fact that the level of COVID in the community surrounding a nursing home is a leading indicator of cases in the facility, the major spikes of COVID cases in many states comes at a very challenging time as many states plan the reopening of long-term care facilities and return of visitations from loved ones,” the letter stated.

It cited research by Harvard Medical School, Brown University’s School of Public Health and University of Chicago that showed that a high rate of spread in a nursing home’s surrounding community is the primary factor in whether there is an outbreak at a facility.

About three-quarters of all cases in U.S. nursing homes have occurred in counties where the 7-day average rate of new cases of COVID-19 was more than 3.59 per 100,000 people. The statewide 7-day average in Alabama was 34.41 new cases per day per 100,000 as of Tuesday.

In Jefferson County, which has the most residents of any county in the state, the average number of new cases per day has been more than 200 per day in the last week. Per 100,000 people that is roughly 38.21 cases per day per 100,000 people.

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Two other of the state’s largest counties, Madison and Mobile, also broke 100 average new daily cases last week.

There are 231 nursing homes in Alabama. So far, 195 have reported at least one resident or employee who have tested positive for the virus. Some still have infected residents and others are reported to be COVID-free.

As of Wednesday, 1,183 people in the state have died of COVID-19. The death toll increased by 87 in the last two days alone. Of those who have died from COVID-19 in Alabama, 931 — or 79 percent — have been seniors 65 or older.

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John Matson, director of communications for the Alabama Nursing Home Association, said that his organization is focused on reopening nursing homes to visitors once the state allows it. It will happen at the discretion of each facility, he said, as there is no set number that the rate of spread in the local community would need to drop to.

The letter of concern to governors said that visitation is important to the well-being of nursing home residents. To do it safely, it made three key requests:

  • Expedited lab processing time and on-site testing with reliable and rapid results
  • Additional support for personal protective equipment — especially N-95 masks
  • Close coordination between state officials and long term care providers 

Matson said the ANHA supports the letter and is in a good position to get the support it needs.

“We’re fortunate to have a strong working relationship with Gov. Ivey’s office,” he said.

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Elections

Jones urges voters to select him over Tuberville

“The choice before the voters is an unprepared hyper-partisan that will add to the divide in Washington, or my proven track-record to find common ground and get things done,” Jones said.

Brandon Moseley

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Then-candidate Doug Jones during his election night party in December 2017. (CHIP BROWNLEE/APR)

Incumbent U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, urged Alabama voters to re-elect him after Republican primary voters selected former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville to be their Senate nominee heading toward the November general election.

“When I was elected, I promised the people of Alabama that I would put their interests first to find common ground and get things done for our state,” Jones said in a statement. “Washington already has plenty of people who fight along partisan lines and nothing much seems to get done.”

“I’ve passed seventeen bipartisan bills signed into law by President Trump and was honored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce three times for my record of bipartisanship, leadership and pro-business support,” Jones continued. “Working across the aisle, we repealed the tax on Gold Star widows after more than twenty years of partisan bickering kept thousands of families from earning the benefits they were promised. We secured relief for farmers in the Wiregrass hit hard by hurricanes and tornadoes. We’re investing in rural hospitals that, without Medicaid expansion, continue to struggle despite their importance to many Alabama communities. I will always protect health care for our seniors and people with pre-existing conditions.”

“That’s the record I will present to the people of Alabama at a time when our country and our state face multiple crises,” Jones claimed. “We are not out of the woods yet but every step of the way I will have your back and no one else’s. The choice before the voters is an unprepared hyper-partisan that will add to the divide in Washington, or my proven track-record to find common ground and get things done. We can choose One Alabama and continue to move Alabama forward together and work for better health care, support our veterans, and bring back jobs from overseas.”

The Alabama Democratic Party, which has been torn by internal strife for years but recently came under new leadership after the former chair was removed from her post, is promising to marshal their resources to re-elect Jones.

“Tommy Tuberville just won the Republican runoff to take on Doug Jones this fall,” the ADP said in a statement. “Help us welcome him to the race like Nick Saban (not Lou, Mr. President) did in his last Iron Bowl.”

Democrats are trying to convince volunteers and donors that the Senate rate is winnable.

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“Doug Jones is tied 46-46,” the ADP claimed. “Let’s help him win. Pitch in and help us beat Tommy Tuberville, the guy who said he “wouldn’t have a clue” how to deal with the Coronavirus. Want a Senator who’s actually had an original thought to bring people together and get things done? Then Doug Jones is your Senator. Help us re-elect him now.”

The ADP is citing a recent poll showing Tuberville leading Jones 47 to 43. The same internal polling showed Jones pulling even if there is heavy Black turnout and over 90 percent of Black voters break to Jones on election day.

The former college football coach took time in his victory speech to address his general election opponent.

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“Democrat Doug Jones is running for reelection with the slogan of One Alabama,” Tuberville said. “Well, you can make no mistake about it: what Doug really means is One Liberal Alabama.”

Tuberville accused Jones of taking “marching orders from Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer and bartender AOC,” and criticized Jones for voting against the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh and to “impeach Trump.”

Technically Senators do not vote to impeach or not to impeach. That is a matter for the House of Representatives, of which Jones is not a member. The Senators vote, after a president has been impeached by the House, on whether to convict or not to convict. Jones voted to convict Trump on two articles of impeachment brought by the House.

Tuberville won the Republican primary runoff with 61 percent of the vote, besting former U.S. Attorney General and Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, who received 39 percent.

Legendary Democratic strategist James Carville has called the Tuberville and Jones race “a tossup.”

Jones is the only Democrat to win any statewide political race since 2008. Jones beat former Chief Justice Roy Moore in a 2017 special election to fill the vacancy created when Trump appointed Sessions as attorney general.

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Elections

Mark Gidley announces run for Rep. Becky Nordgren’s House seat

Brandon Moseley

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The Alabama State House at 11 South Union Street in Montgomery. (APR)

Republican voters in Etowah County went to the polls and elected State Rep. Becky Nordgren, R-Gadsden, as their nominee for revenue commissioner, defeating Jeff Overstreet in the Republican primary runoff.

No Democrat qualified for the seat, so Nordgren will likely be the commissioner once the current commissioner’s term runs out. At that time, the governor will call a special election to fill Nordgren’s soon-to-be vacant House seat.

Mark Gidley has announced that he will seek the Republican nomination for State House District 29.

“I have a strong desire to continue to promote pro-life, pro-family, and strong conservative values in Montgomery as the Representative for the people of District 29,” Gidley said. “I have been a member of the pro-life community for many years, serving as a board member for the Etowah County Pregnancy Center, and I will fight in Montgomery to continue to make Alabama a Pro-Life State. I believe in family values, and the traditional family created in the image of God. I will fight for these values as a Representative in the Alabama House”.

Mark Gidley is a lifelong resident of Etowah County and is heavily involved in his community. Gidley is the pastor of the Faith Worship Center Church of God in Glencoe.

Gidley says that it is his desire to serve this community and the area of District 29 with bold and conservative leadership.

Mark is married to the former Kathy Chapman of Hokes Bluff. They have two daughters and four grandchildren. Mark is a member of the Executive Committee of the Etowah County Republican Party.

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