After a tumultuous summer for the Business Council of Alabama, one of the state’s most prominent business and lobbying groups, that included the ouster of the group’s longtime CEO, the BCA’s board of directors announced Wednesday a new plan to revitalize the group and a new executive committee that will lead the group through that transition.
The BCA says the plan “strengthens the organization’s governance structure to include a range of business leaders.”
The new executive committee, which welcomed back a number of previous BCA members, includes a number of BCA member organization leaders including some who had drawn back their involvement over the course of the last several months. One of those is Alabama Power, long considered the state’s most powerful business entity in the political arena.
Alabama Power was one of the first companies to temporarily withdraw from the organization in June in protest over the group’s leadership and management.
“The wholesale governance and leadership changes made today show what is possible when businesses come together with a common goal,” said Alabama Power Co. CEO Mark Crosswhite. “While the hard work of moving this organization forward remains, I am pleased with this progress and look forward to working with businesses across our state for a stronger BCA and a better Alabama.”
The BCA’s new executive committee is made up of 11 individuals. Five represent some of the group’s larger businesses, five represent the group’s smaller businesses, and one trustee represents the Alabama Self-Insured Worker’s Compensation Fund.
“This structure ensures that BCA’s governance structure will be focused on those core issues that are critical to businesses of every variety and size,” said former BCA chairman Carl Jamison, who is also a member of the executive committee. “Going forward, it will allow us to build on BCA’s finest traditions and take the organization to a whole new level.”
The new executive committee elected today includes:
- Rey Almodovar, CEO, Intuitive Research and Technology
- Mark Crosswhite, CEO, Alabama Power Co.
- Perry Hand, Chairman, Volkert Inc.
- Denson Henry, Owner/Vice President, Henry Brick Co.
- Carl Jamison, Shareholder, JamisonMoneyFarmer PC
- Johnny Johns, Executive Chairman, Protective Life Corp.
- John Mazyck, Principal, The Frazer Lanier Co.
- Gary Smith, CEO, PowerSouth Energy Cooperative
- John Turner, CEO, Regions Bank
- Bobby Vaughan, Chairman of the Board, Alabama Self-Insured Worker’s Compensation Fund
- Tim Vines, CEO, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama
The new restructuring follows the ouster of former BCA CEO Billy Canary, who has now taken a position with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. A number of high-profile withdrawals — including Regions Bank and PowerSouth Energy — rocked the group. The companies that withdrew from the group called for new leadership and a restructuring of the organization’s governance.
If the withdrawals were permanent, which now doesn’t appear to be the case, BCA could have lost its top seven contributors and more than $1 million in annual contributions, which could have been a devastating blow to a group that prided itself on being able to influence state politics.
One of the main tipping points was Canary’s degrading relationship with political leaders both on the state and national level along with his inability to foster any meaningful legislative progress. He was reportedly named a persona non grata in the Sen. Richard Shelby’s office and shunned by most of the state’s delegation in Congress. As APR editor Bill Britt put it at the time of the withdrawals, “Canary has accumulated more enemies than friends and increasingly finds himself isolated.”
His reputation was severely tainted during the June Republican primary elections and few candidates publicized a BCA endorsement while still taking the group’s monetary contributions. Much of Canary’s problems date back to his aligning himself with former Republican House Speaker Mike Hubbard, who was convicted of a dozen felony ethics charges in 2016.
In both the 2017 legislative session, the BCA failed to push through any meaningful legislation and this year’s legislative session wasn’t much better, failing to garner support for key pieces of legislation top contributors backed.
When Alabama Power, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Regions Bank, Drummond Coal and others pushed back against Canary over the last year in an effort to reform the group, their efforts were rebuked by Canary and BCA chairman Perry Hand.
“Despite repeated assurances that our concerns will be addressed, there has been no meaningful response,” Crosswhite said in a June letter announcing the company’s temporary withdrawal from the group.
Representatives from Drummond Co. Inc., Kemp Management Solutions, Maynard Cooper & Gale, Parker Towing Co. and Progress Rail Services Corp. were also elected to the BCA board today.
Bobby Vaughan, a representative from the Alabama Self-Insured Worker’s Compensation Fund, said the restructured BCA should ensure the organization can provide value to the members.
“At the end of the day, our members are our customers,” Vaughan said. “Our job is to serve the interests of our members, and the new structure will enable us to do that more effectively.”
Heather Brothers New, chairwoman of the Chamber of Commerce Association of Alabama, also weighed in.
“We are fortunate in Alabama to have a business community that understands the importance of providing strong leadership on matters that affect our state’s economic success,” New said. “Individuals, families and communities can’t thrive if our state doesn’t provide an environment where businesses can thrive. Everyone in Alabama benefits from this effort to ensure a unified and effective BCA.”
Alabama DHR announces grants providing temporary assistance for stabilizing child care
The Alabama Department of Human Resources announced on Friday a new grant program to provide assistance to licensed child care providers in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Temporary Assistance for Stabilizing Child Care, or TASCC, grant program’s purpose is to stabilize the number of child care providers that are open and providing services, as well as encourage providers to reopen.
DHR is now accepting applications for TASCC grants. The deadline to apply is August 7, 2020. The total grant amounts will be based on each provider’s daytime licensed capacity with a base rate of $300 per child.
To be eligible for a grant, licensed providers must be open or plan to reopen no later than August 17, 2020, and continue to remain open for a period of one year from the date of receiving the grant award. As of this week, 1,306 of Alabama’s 2,448 child care facilities were open in the state.
“We are proud to offer this program as a support and an incentive to an important sector of our economy. These grants will give the support many providers need to reopen and assist those already open,” said Alabama DHR Commissioner Nancy Buckner. “This program is going to be vital for our child care numbers to reach the level required to provide adequate services as parents return to work. We have already made significant strides in reopening facilities over the past several months; in April only 14 percent were open while now 53 percent are open.”
These grants will provide support for paying employees, purchasing classroom materials, providing meals, purchasing cleaning supplies, providing tuition relief for families, as well as other facility expenses.
DHR recommends child care providers read all guidance prior to submitting a TASCC application. Child care providers need to complete the application to determine the estimated grant amount. Grant applications will be processed as they are received and grants awarded once approved.
An online fillable application is available for the TASCC grant at www.dhr.alabama.gov/child-care/. The application must include an Alabama STAARS Vendor Code in order to be processed. For questions regarding the application, please email DHR at [email protected].
Gov. Ivey awards grant for new system to aid child abuse victims
Gov. Kay Ivey has awarded a $375,000 grant to establish a statewide network that will ensure that victims of child abuse receive immediate and professional medical care and other assistance.
The grant will enable the Children’s of Alabama and the University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Pediatrics to collaborate with the Alabama Network of Children Advocacy Centers in creating the Child Abuse Medical System.
“Child abuse is a horrendous crime that robs children of their youth and can negatively affect their future if victims do not receive the proper professional assistance,” Ivey said. “I am thankful for this network that will ensure children get the professional attention they need and deserve.”
The medical system will be a coordinated statewide resource that includes pediatric physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses and other medical professionals along with specialized sexual assault nurse examiners.
The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs is administering the grant.
“ADECA is pleased to join with Gov. Ivey and those dedicated people who are part of the Child Abuse Medical System to support these children at a time they need it most,” said ADECA Director Kenneth Boswell.
Ivey notified Tom Shufflebarger, CEO of Children’s of Alabama, that the grant had been approved.
ADECA manages a range of programs that support law enforcement, economic development, recreation, energy conservation and water resource management.
U.S. Attorney Jay Town announces resignation
Jay Town, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, on Friday announced his resignation and plans to work at a Huntsville defense contractor and cybersecurity solutions company.
Town’s resignation will be effective Wednesday, July 15, according to a press release.
“After much thoughtful prayer and great personal consideration, I have made the decision to resign as the United States Attorney of the Northern District of Alabama. I have tendered my resignation to Attorney General William Barr. General Barr expressed his gratitude for my service to the Department of Justice and to the Northern District and, despite having hoped I would continue in my role, understood and respected my decision,” Town said in a statement.
“I am extremely grateful to President Trump, to whom I also tendered a letter, for his special trust and confidence in me to serve as the U.S. Attorney. It was an honor to be a part of this Administration with an unrivaled class of United States Attorneys from around the nation. I will forever remain thankful to those who supported my nomination and my tenure as the U.S. Attorney,” Town continued.
Town said his job with the unnamed Huntsville defense contractor and cybersecurity solutions company is to begin later this year, and the company is to announce his position “in a few weeks.”
“The Attorney General of the United States will announce my replacement in the coming days or weeks,” Town said in the release.
Town has served in his position since confirmation by the U.S. Senate in August 2017. Prior to that appointment, Town was a prosecutor in the Madison County District Attorney’s office from 2005 until 2017.
Attorney General William Barr in a statement Friday offered gratitude for Town’s three years of service.
“Jay’s leadership in his District has been immense. His contributions to the Department of Justice have been extensive, especially his work on the China Initiative and most recently as a Working Group Chair on the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice. I appreciate his service to our nation and to the Justice Department, and I wish him the very best,” Barr said in a statement.
The U.S. Justice Department in April 2019 notified Gov. Kay Ivey that the department’s lengthy investigation into the state’s prisons for men found systemic problems of violence, sexual assaults, drugs and corruption which are likely violations of the inmates’ Constitutional protections from cruel and unusual punishment.
Town’s office leads the discussions between the U.S Department of Justice and the state on the prison conditions.
Problems with violence, deaths and drugs in Alabama’s overcrowded, understaffed prisons have not markedly improved in the year’s since the U.S. Department of Justice released its report.
Alabama’s daily COVID-19 deaths second highest since start of pandemic
In the past two weeks the state recorded 190 coronavirus deaths, a 38 percent increase from the previous two weeks.
Alabama saw 35 deaths from COVID-19 on Friday, the second highest daily number of deaths since the pandemic began.
The previous record daily high was May 12, when the state recorded 37 coronavirus deaths. Prior to that, the high was on April 22, when Alabama saw 35 deaths from the virus. In the past two weeks the state recorded 190 coronavirus deaths, a 38 percent increase from the previous two weeks.
While cases have been surging since mid-June, deaths have largely remained stable. Deaths are considered a lagging indicator, meaning that it takes longer for deaths to begin rising after cases and hospitalizations begin rising.
“The fact that we’re seeing these sharp increases and hospitalization in cases over the past week or two is really concerning,” said UAB expert Dr. Jodie Dionne-Odom earlier this week. “And we expect, given the lag that we know there is between cases and hospitalization — about a two-week lag, and a three-week lag between cases and deaths — that we’re on a part of the curve that we just don’t want to be on in our state.”
It’s unclear whether this new rise in deaths will become a trend, or whether it is a one-day anomaly, but the 14-day average of deaths per day is now nearly as high as the previous peak on May 14 — weeks after the state hit its first “peak” in cases per day in late April. The previous high of the 14-day average of deaths per day was 16 on May 14. The average is now at 14 deaths per day, on average.
The uptick in deaths comes after days of record-high new daily COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. The state added 1,304 new COVID-19 cases Friday, down from Thursday’s record-high of 2,164, but the trend of rising daily cases has continued largely unabated since early June.
The 14-day average of daily tests was at an all-time high Friday, at 8,125, which was 308 more tests than the previous high, set Wednesday. The percent of tests that were positive also increased, however, so the new cases can’t be attributed solely to more testing.
The 14-day average of the percent positivity was 14.22 on Friday. Excluding Thursday’s figure, because the Alabama Department of Public Health didn’t publish total tests administered on Thursday, which threw off percent positive figures, Friday’s 14-day average was the highest it’s been since the beginning of the pandemic.
There were a few higher 14-day average percent positivity days in April, but those numbers were skewed as well, because ADPH wasn’t able to collect all testing data from commercial labs during that time period.
Along with surging new cases, the number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized on Thursday was higher than it’s been since the beginning of the pandemic. On Thursday 1,125 coronavirus patients were being treated in state hospitals, which was the fifth straight day of record current hospitalizations.
UAB Hospital’s COVID-19 Intensive care units were nearing their existing capacity earlier this week. The hospital has both a COVID ICU and a COVID acute care unit designated to keep patients separated from those who don’t have the virus, but it has more space in other non-COVID units should it need to add additional bed space.
Hospitals in Madison County this week are also seeing a surge of COVID-19 patients. Paul Finley, the mayor of the city of Madison, told reporters Wednesday that local hospitals were reporting record numbers.