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Ivey announces $10 million grant to Space and Rocket Center

Brandon Moseley

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By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Tuesday, August 22, 2017, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R) was at the NASA’s Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville to announce a $10 million economic development grant to establish a new cyber camp and for campus expansion of the rocket center.

Redstone Chairman Joe Newberry said, “This is an audacious day for the Rocket Center and for Alabamians everywhere.”  The Space and Rocket Center has been the top tourist attraction in Alabama for six of the last seven years.

Gov. Ivey said, “Today is a great day for Huntsville, North Alabama and the great State of Alabama.  Today we find ourselves in an environment that inspires children and adults to dream. Expanding Cyber Camp in Alabama’s No. 1 tourist attraction, the US Space and Rocket Center, was a logical investment for the State.  More students will have the opportunity to train in cyber-security related fields of study and contribute to the increasing demand for cybersecurity professionals in Alabama and across the country.”

Ivey said, “The inaugural camp of 32 students was chosen from students across the state. We must train our students in technology and the Cyber Camp does just that. Cyber Camp is vital not only for our State and for our workforce but for the entire nation.”

Gov. Ivey said, “I am so proud to announce that I am providing a grant in the amount of $10 million to the Space and Rocket Center. We are so thankful to have this facility. Human ingenuity and creativity is not limited by what we fail to achieve; but by what we fail to attempt to achieve.”

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Huntsville also had more good news when the US Air Force announced that Boeing had been given the contract to design and build America’s next generation Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM).  Kay Ivey said, “I am proud that the US Air Force has chosen Boeing to develop our nation’s next intercontinental ballistic missile and that Boeing plans to complete some of that project here in Alabama. This announcement is a testament to the fantastic work that Boeing does and serves to strengthen the bond between that great company and this great state. Boeing’s continued growth and success, is a sign that Huntsville, and all of Alabama, is on the forefront of aerospace innovation and in protecting our nation.”

The Alabama Political Reporter (APR) talked about the economic effects of landing the missile contract with professional economic developer Nicole Jones.  Jones stated, “Boeing has been a part of Huntsville since 1962, and we thank Boeing for their continued presence and innovation in Huntsville and the entire State of Alabama. The United States Air Force’s selection of Boeing to design a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) translates into local jobs and highlights Alabama’s important role in the aerospace industry as well as national security.”

Jones is running for the Republican nomination for Alabama Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries.  Incumbent John McMillan (R) is term limited from running again.

CEO and Executive Director of the US Space and Rocket Center Dr. Deborah Barnhart said, “We deeply appreciate Gov. Ivey’s wisdom in investing in Alabama’s future with us. With Space Camp, our mission has been to light fire to the imagination and inspire our children to become the next generation of explorers. Cyber Camp is the first step in defending our freedom to explore, to protect our homeland, to insure our privacy.”

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Dr. Barnhart said, “In 1967 the State of Alabama invested $1.6 million of bond money to start the Space and Rocket Center, and it has grown into the State’s most popular tourist attraction.  Here NASA scientists are working to put a human being on Mars. We are the only NASA visitors center that is the number one attraction in its state and we are the only science exhibit which is the number one tourist attraction in any state.”

Barnhart said, “More people have attended space camps this year than in any year of our 35 year history. The rocket system must grow.  We need more classrooms and room for US Cyber Camp.  Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle started a cyber initiative. Thank you cyber Huntsville for coming to us.”

The Commander of US Strategic Command John Hyten praised the Rocket Center for starting the Cyber Camp.  He said that, Cyberspace is the glue that holds everything together.”

Recent Cyber Camp graduate Anslee said, “I learned so much.  How to protect myself and how to eventually protect the government.  Cyber Security affects, “Everything from your cell phones, to hospitals to schools, to even government systems. It (Cyber Camp) made me want to do this.”

Dr. Barnhart said that the grant, which is the largest gift in the history of the Space and Rocket Center, will allow them to build a new building which will connect the original museum with the Davidson Center.

Jones told APR, “Cyber Camp is a workforce development initiative aimed to prepare high school students for success in competitive technological markets. We have incredible brainpower in Alabama, and the Cyber Camp program will help foster the skills needed for future careers in the public and private sector.”

US Representative Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) thanked that 1967 State Legislature and Governor Wallace for having the vision to realize the need for the Space and Rocket Center and all the Governors, Legislatures, and Huntsville Mayors thru Gov. Kay Ivey and Mayor Tommy Battle for keeping the vision going.

Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives (R-Monrovia) said that he grew up on a small farm ten miles north of the Rocket Center and Redstone Arsenal. His father worked on building the test stands for the rocket engines.  McCutcheon said that when they would test those rocket engines the fields would shake and it scared McCutcheon as a boy.   He asked his grandfather what it was and his grandfather told him. “That is the sound of money.”  McCutcheon said that it has been and credits the space flight center and Redstone Arsenal for helping to grow Huntsville.

State Senator Arthur Orr (R-Huntsville) said that the Rocket Center has a $one million a year earmark in the state education budget.  Sometimes people in other parts of the state have come after that, but the North Alabama delegation work together to protect that funding.

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle (R) said that he and his team identified cyber security as a growing job field and they have made cyber part of the curriculum in the Huntsville Schools.  We are growing our work force.  The FBI, the military, and the private sector all want people who are trained in cyber security.

Tommy Battle is running as a candidate for the Republican nomination for Governor in 2018.  Gov. Kay Ivey has not announced whether she was will run for the office in 2018; but multiple sources are telling APR that she will.

The major party primaries are on June 5, 2018.

 

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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Tuberville calls for term limits, balanced budget and lobbying reform

Tuberville has also made a major media buy across the state to trumpet this message.

Brandon Moseley

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Republican Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville (TUBERVILLE CAMPAIGN)

Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville’s campaign began emphasizing key structural reforms that the Republican nominee hopes to advance if elected to the U.S. Senate including congressional term limits, withholding lawmakers’ paychecks unless a balanced budget is passed and a ban on former officials becoming lobbyists.

“Only an outsider like me can help President Trump drain the Swamp, and any of the proposals outlined in this ad will begin the process of pulling the plug,” Tuberville said in a statement. “Doug Jones has had his chance, and he failed our state, so now it’s time to elect a senator who will work to fundamentally change the way that Washington operates.”

Tuberville has also made a major media buy across the state to trumpet this message.

“You know Washington politicians could learn a lot from the folks in small town Alabama, but Doug Jones … he’s too liberal to teach them,” Tuberville added.

Polls consistently show that term limits are popular with people across both political parties, but the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that imposing term limits would be adding a qualification to be a member of Congress and that can only be done by constitutional amendment.

It is an unspoken truth that when Americans send someone to Congress they never come back. They either keep getting re-elected like Alabama’s own Sen. Richard Shelby, who is in his sixth term in the Senate after four terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. On the other hand, they may become lobbyists getting paid to influence their colleagues on behalf of corporations, foreign governments or some well funded non-government organization.

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Tuberville said he would ban that practice.

A balanced budget amendment almost passed in the 1980s and again in the 1990s.

Since that failure, Congress has increasingly passed bigger and bigger budget deficits. The U.S. government borrowed more money during the eight years of President George W. Bush’s presidency than the government had borrowed in the first 224 years of the country combined.

President Barack Obama followed and the TARP program propped up the post-Great Recession economy. Rather than cutting the deficit, President Donald Trump invested billions in the military and a tax cut without cutting domestic spending. The 2020 coronavirus crisis has further grown the budget.

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The government has borrowed trillions to prop up the economy and provide stimulus while investing billions into medical research and treating the virus victims. Congress is currently debating a fifth stimulus package that would add more to the deficit.

Both a balanced budget amendment and a term limits amendment would have to be ratified by the states if passed by Congress. Tuberville is challenging incumbent Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama.

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House passes General Fund Budget

Brandon Moseley

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By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

The Alabama House of Representatives passed the state General Fund Budget on Tuesday.

The General Fund Budget for the 2019 fiscal year is Senate Bill 178. It is sponsored by Sen. Trip Pittman, R-Montrose. State Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, carried the budget on the House floor. Clouse chairs the House Ways and Means General Fund Committee.

Clouse said, “Last year we monetized the BP settlement money and held over $97 million to this year.”

Clouse said that the state is still trying to come up with a solution to the federal lawsuit over the state prisons. The Governor’s Office has made some progress after she took over from Gov. Robert Bentley. The supplemental we just passed added $30 million to prisons.

The budget adds $50 million to the Department of Corrections.

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Clouse said that the budget increased the money for prisons by $55,680,000 and includes $4.8 million to buy the privately-owned prison facility in Perry County.

Clouse said that the budget raises funding for the judicial system and raises the appropriation for the Forensic Sciences to $11.7 million.

The House passed a committee substitute so the Senate is either going to have to concur with the changes made by the House or a conference committee will have to be appointed. Clouse told reporters that he hoped that it did not have to go to conference.

Clouse said that the budget had added $860,000 to hire more Juvenile Probation Officers. After talking to officials with the court system that was cut in half in the amendment. The amendment also includes some wording the arbiters in the court lawsuit think we need.

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The state General Fund Budget, SB178, passed 98-1.

Both budgets have now passed the Alabama House of Representatives.

The 2019 fiscal year begins on Oct. 1, 2018.

In addition to the SGF, the House also passed a supplemental appropriation for the current 2018 budget year. SB175 is also sponsored by Pittman and was carried by Clouse on the floor of the House.

SB175 includes $30 million in additional 2018 money for the Department of Corrections. The Departmental Emergency Fund, the Examiners of Public Accounts, the Insurance Department and Forensic Sciences received additional money.

Clouse said, “We knew dealing with the federal lawsuit was going to be expensive. We are adding $80 million to the Department of Corrections.”

State Representative Johnny Mack Morrow, R-Red Bay, said that state Department of Forensics was cut from $14 million to $9 million. “Why are we adding money for DA and courts if we don’t have money for forensics to provide evidence? if there is any agency in law enforcement or the court system that should be funded it is Forensics.”

The supplemental 2018 appropriation passed 80 to 1.

The House also passed SB203. It was sponsored by Pittman and was carried in the House by State Rep. Ken Johnson, R-Moulton. It raises securities and registration fees for agents and investment advisors. It increases the filing fees for certain management investment companies. Johnson said that those fees had not been adjusted since 2009.

The House also passed SB176, which is an annual appropriation for the Coalition Against Domestic Violence. The bill requires that the agency have an operations plan, audited financial statement, and quarterly and end of year reports. SB176 is sponsored by Pittman and was carried on the House floor by State Rep. Elaine Beech, D-Chatham.

The House passed Senate Bill 185 which gives state employees a cost of living increase in the 2019 budget beginning on October 1. It was sponsored by Sen. Clyde Chambliss, R-Prattville and was being carried on the House floor by state Rep. Dimitri Polizos, R-Montgomery.

Polizos said that this was the first raise for non-education state employees in nine years. It is a 3 percent raise.

SB185 passed 101-0.

Senate Bill 215 gives retired state employees a one time bonus check. SB215 is sponsored by Senator Gerald Dial, R-Lineville, and was carried on the House floor by state Rep. Kerry Rich, R-Guntersville.

Rich said that retired employees will get a bonus $1  for every month that they worked for the state. For employees who retired with 25 years of service that will be a $300 one time bonus. A 20-year retiree would get $240 and a 35-year employee would get $420.

SB215 passed the House 87-0.

The House passed Senate Bill 231, which is the appropriation bill increase amount to the Emergency Forest Fire and Insect and Disease Fund. SB231 is sponsored by Sen. Steve Livingston, R-Scottsboro, and was carried on the House floor by state Rep. Kyle South, R-Fayette.

State Rep. Elaine Beech, D-Chathom, said, “Thank you for bringing this bill my district is full of trees and you never know when a forest fire will hit.

SB231 passed 87-2.

The state of Alabama is unique among the states in that most of the money is earmarked for specific purposes allowing the Legislature little year-to-year flexibility in moving funds around.

The SGF includes appropriations for the Alabama Medicaid Agency, the courts, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, the Alabama Department of Corrections, mental health, and most state agencies that are no education related. The Alabama Department of Transportation gets their funding mostly from state fuel taxes.

The Legislature also gives ALEA a portion of the gas taxes. K-12 education, the two year college system, and all the universities get their state support from the education trust fund (ETF) budget. There are also billions of dollars in revenue that are earmarked for a variety of purposes that does not show up in the SGF or ETF budgets.

Examples of that include the Public Service Commission, which collects utility taxes from the industries that it regulates. The PSC is supported entirely by its own revenue streams and contributes $13 million to the SGF. The Secretary of State’s Office is entirely funded by its corporate filing and other fees and gets no SGF appropriation.

Clouse warned reporters that part of the reason this budget had so much money was due to the BP oil spill settlement that provided money for the 2018 budget and $97 million for the 2019 budget. Clouse said they elected to make a $13 million repayment to the Alabama Trust fund that was not due until 2020 but that is all that was held over for 2020.

Clouse predicted that the Legislature will have to make some hard decisions about revenue in next year’s session.

 

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Day Care bill delayed for second time on Senate floor, may be back Thursday

Sam Mattison

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By Samuel Mattison
Alabama Political Reporter

The day care bill, which would license certain day care centers in Alabama, was once again delayed on the state Senate floor after one lawmaker requested more information.

Its brief appearance Tuesday ended with state Sen. Gerald Dial, R-Lineville, saying a compromise had not yet been worked out with the bill’s detractors.

Alabama’s Senate has been hesitant to act on the legislation because of complaints of state Sen. Shay Shelnutt, R-Trussville, who has been an opponent of the bill since its introduction last year. The bill’s delay on Tuesday marks the second time its been taken off the Senate’s agenda.

The bill has had a rocky time in this year’s session, but the bill’s sponsor state Rep. Pebblin Warren, D-Tuskegee, said she is still confident about its passage out of the Legislature.

Warren, D-Tuskegee, filed the bill this session with the support of influential lawmakers including Gov. Kay Ivey, who told reporters last year that she though all day cares should be licensed.

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Mainly sparked by the death of 5-year-old boy in the care of a unlicensed day care worker, the bill had great momentum coming into this year’ session.

Despite the growing support from lawmakers, Religious groups had concerns that the bill would increase state-sponsored reach into religious day cares in churches and non-profit groups.

Spearheading the dissenters was Alabama Citizens Action Program, a conservative religious-based PAC.

Warren, proponents, and ALCAP announced a compromise to the bill while it was still in the Alabama House.

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Announced by ALCAP originally, the new bill was a weaker version in that it did not require that all day cares in the state be regulated. Instead, religious-based day cares would only need to be registered if they received federal funds. At a Senate committee meeting in February, Warren said a similar requirement was about to come from federal law in Congress.

The bill moved through the House in a overwhelming vote in favor of the proposal and passed unanimously out of a Senate committee a few weeks ago.

Warren, speaking to reporters after its passage from the House, said she was unsure if the bill would encounter resistance in the upper chamber.

It was the Senate that killed the daycare bill last year amid a cramped last day where senators took the bill off the floor. The bill may face similar complications this year, as lawmakers seem to be preparing to adjourn within a few weeks.

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Fantasy sports bill fails on Senate floor

Sam Mattison

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By Samuel Mattison
Alabama Political Reporter

Would-be Fantasy Sports players in Alabama will have to wait to legally play in the state following a Senate vote on Tuesday.

The Alabama Senate decisively killed a bill to exempt fantasy sports from the state’s prohibition on gambling.

Not even entertaining a debate on the Senate floor, the proposal was killed during a vote for the Budget Isolation Resolution, which is usually a formality vote preluding a debate.

Fantasy sports are contests where participants select players from real teams to compete on fantasy teams using the real-world players’ stats.

Since 2016, the practice has been illegal in Alabama following a legal decision by the Attorney General’s Office that categorized it as gambling.

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The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Paul Sanford, R-Huntsville, predicted the bill’s failure during a committee meeting two weeks ago, where the bill passed unanimously.

Sen. Paul Sanford speaks to reporters after a Senate Committee meeting on Feb. 28, 2018. (Samuel Mattison/APR)

Speaking to reporter’s after the committee meeting, Sanford said the decision to file the bill was mainly a philosophical belief that the practice shouldn’t be illegal.

Sanford, a fantasy sports player before its ban, said that fantasy sports are a way to bring people closer together and not a means to win money. The Huntsville senator is not seeking re-election.

The bill’s failure in the Senate follows its trajectory last year too. A similar version of the bill, also sponsored by Sanford, failed in the Senate during the final days of the 2017 Legislative Session.

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Since Sanford is retiring, it is unclear if the bill will even come back next session, or if it will even have a Senate sponsor.

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