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Gov. Ivey addresses state challenges, including prison construction

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Tuesday, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey spoke to the Workforce Development Council meeting in Montgomery. Afterward, the governor spoke to the Capital Press.

Gov. Ivey said that since she was elevated to the governorship, unemployment has dropped from 5.4 percent to just 3.8 percent – the lowest number in the history of the state. Ivey said that it was a team effort.

Ivey reminded the council that government does not create jobs, it is private companies that do that.

Ivey said that it was critical that the state address the attainment gap. By 2020, 62 percent of the jobs in the state will require a post-secondary certification, an associate’s degree, a four year degree or a Phd. Presently, only 37 percent of the Alabama workforce has that.

“We can recruit, recruit, and recruit. But if our workforce does not have the skills they (employers) need, they still won’t come here,” Gov. Ivey said.

Ivey said that the state Workforce Development Council is composed of industry leaders and educators that will prepare a plan on how to close that attainment gap and have that ready for the governor by April. “Developing our workforce is essential. We have got to make sure that our workforce has the skills that the employers of the future demand,” Ivey said.

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Reporters asked Ivey what kind of jobs is she talking about.

Ivey said that there are computer science jobs that go unfilled now that pay $80,000 a year.

Ivey also addressed the prison overcrowding issue.

Ivey said that she asked Department of Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn to hire a management team to develop a plan before the end of the year. “Alabamians have got to make a decision,” on how to address the prisons. Ivey said that they are considering all options for building prisons, including leasing prisons from private companies.

“It’s essential that we in Alabama make the decisions and figure out how to solve the prison situation, both infrastructure and the medical and staffing needs that have been identified by the judge,” Ivey said.

Ivey said that, “Alabamians have got to take charge,” rather than, letting the federal court dictate a plan.

The Southern Poverty Law Center and a collection of current and former prisoners have sued the state claiming that the prisons do not provide adequate mental health care, healthcare and that the prisons are overcrowded and understaffed creating an unconstitutional “cruel and unusual punishment.” Federal Judge Myron Thompson has already ruled that the state provides inadequate mental healthcare for its prisoners. Sources have already told the Alabama Political Reporter that providing the mental health care to alone settle that first phase of the suit will cost taxpayers an additional $20 million a year from the troubled state general fund.

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Ivey said that the state will consider all options and that getting a corporation to build the prison is one plan that is under consideration. Ivey said that a build and lease back plan would not require a bond issue.

Former Gov. Robert Bentley and ADOC Commissioner Jeff Dunn had brought a controversial plan to borrow $800 million to build four new super sized prisons. That plan died in the Legislature in both 2016 and 2017. Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey became governor in April when Bentley resigned.

The Alabama Media Group’s Mike Cason asked Ivey if she had scheduled interviews with potential Jefferson County district attorney candidates.

Ivey said that she is going to interview six candidates this week, but would not reveal who those candidates were.

Jefferson County DA Charles Todd Henderson was removed from office after being convicted of perjury. Before his election as DA, Henderson was a court appointed guardian ad litum for a minor child. He used that position to coerce the child’s mother into having sexual relations with him. Henderson denied that relationship when asked about it in the trial. Henderson defeated Jefferson County DA Brandon Falls in the 2016 election.

Gov. Kay Ivey is seeking election as governor in the 2018 election.

The major party primaries are on June 5, 2018.

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Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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