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Transportation Committee to vote today infrastructure legislation

Brandon Moseley

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The Alabama House of Representatives began its special session Wednesday to consider raising the fuel taxes that motorists pay by 10 cents over three years.

The plan is being spearheaded by Alabama’s Republican Gov. Kay Ivey.

“Due to the dire need to act now, I am the Alabama Legislature into a special session, focused solely on passing this critical infrastructure legislation,” Ivey said in a statement Tuesday night calling for an immediate special session. “Beginning tomorrow, as we enter this special session, we must shift our focus and tackle this issue together! It’s time to make our crumbling infrastructure system a problem of the past.”

State Rep. Bill Poole, R-Tuscaloosa is carrying the tax increase bills for the governor.

Poole announced on Wednesday that he had made several changes to the bills as they were first introduced on Friday. These include changes to the Port of Mobile carve out, fees on electric and hybrid vehicles and “other miscellaneous changes.”

The new bills, HB1, HB3, and HB2, were unfortunately not immediately available for the members, the press, or the public to review since the state legislature’s server was malfunctioning.

State Representative Juandalynn Givan, D-Birmingham, said, “This is absolutely ridiculous. All three pieces of the legislation should already have been printed, prepped, and prepared so we can read them.”

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 It became available online later Wednesday. Poole’s most notable revision was to rewrite the bill so the annual allocation to the Port of Mobile will be increased from $10.2 million per year to $11.76 million per year.

The tax increase on gasoline and diesel remains 10 cents per gallon, and that tax automatically rises up to a penny, every other year indexed to the cost of road construction. The annual fee for electric cars dropped to $200, from $250. Hybrid vehicle owners will pay $100 each year under the plan, down from $125.

The bills will be in the Transportation, Utilities, and Infrastructure Committee today at 10:30 a.m. in room 200. Chairman Lynn Greer, R-Rogersville, told reporters that there will be a vote on the bills today.

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State Representative Parker Moore, R-Decatur, told reporters that he thought the bill was moving “too fast.” “We knew there was an infrastructure bill, but did not know what is in it.”

Reporters asked Moore if it was necessary to spend over $100 million on the Port of Mobile over the next decades as part of this plan.

“We would lose billions of dollars if we did not have that facility,” Moore told reporters.

State Representative Rich Wingo, R-Tuscaloosa, said that as the bill is now he would be a no vote.

“I am in favor of improving our infrastructure,” Wingo said. “I also am in favor of being good stewards of the people’s money.”

“Alabama is one of the few states that do not have one concrete roadbuilder,” Wingo said. “I would like to see competition drive cost down.”

Wingo said that he would be introducing a number of amendments to the legislation including one that requires that all road projects be submitted for both concrete and asphalt bids.

Wingo also expressed concerns about the process that the Governor and the Speaker have used. “I don’t like it being jammed down our throats like this.”

Chairman Greer said, “Personally I am for the basic legislation.” Greer said that the vote looked to be tight though.

APR asked if it was fair to ask the average Alabamian who is just driving back and forth to work to subsidize the Port of Mobile. Shouldn’t the Port pay for its own operating costs, perhaps by imposing a fee on ships being loaded and unloaded there.

“The port of Mobile helps all counties,” Greer said. It is like Mazda-Toyota in Limestone County it helps the whole state. “Mobile will be helping us up there and we will be helping Mobile. “It is a win-win for all of Alabama.”

The special Session is focused on legislation to levy an additional excise tax on gasoline and diesel fuel; legislation concerning the Legislature’s Permanent Joint Transportation Committee to provide for effective legislative oversight of the Alabama Department of Transportation; and legislation to provide the Alabama Highway Finance Corporation with authority to borrow money and issue bonds for the purpose of improving the Alabama State Docks and the Mobile Bay ship channel.

The state Senate also has legislation in committee today. The Senate Transportation and Energy will meet in Room 825 at 9:00 a.m.

State Senator Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, has sponsored SB1, which will require that all off-road vehicles, all-terrain vehicles (ATV’s) and recreational off-road vehicles be registered with Ala. State Law Enforcement Agency The bill also increases width and weight restrictions.

Senator Clyde Chambliss, R-Prattville, is sponsoring SB2, which deals with the Department of Transporation’s long-range plan and setting up an oversight committee.

Senator Jimmy Holley, R-Enterprise, is sponsoring SB3 which deals with prohibitions in golf carts and low-speed vehicles from being operated on on public highways.

The full House will meet today at 2:00 p.m. after the committee vote.

Speaker Mac McCutcheon met with Democrats on Wednesday to try to convince them to support the tax increase bill.

 

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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Governor announces final report on campaign for grade-level reading

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Governor Kay Ivey on Friday announced the final report and recommendations of the Alabama Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. The final report provides recommendations to enhance Birth to Age Eight Systems; Family Engagement; Health and Well-Being; Learning Outside the Classroom; and Special Education, English Language Learners and Struggling Readers.

Governor Ivey and campaign leaders have developed an introductory video with a call to action for the Alabama Children’s Policy Councils as they begin their work together of establishing a local, county-level Campaign for Grade-Level Reading to continue this important work in each of Alabama’s 67 counties. The local campaigns represent a grassroots effort organized around the common goal of supporting Alabama students in achieving reading proficiency.

“Today I am joined by officers and leaders of the campaign, and we are honored to address all Alabama Children Policy Councils,” said Governor Ivey. “Reaching this goal will require the collective effort of every individual in all 67 of Alabama’s counties. Your local grassroot efforts to reach our most challenged students in Alabama’s classrooms will directly, positively impact literacy proficiency. We are all made whole when the least among us are provided equitable educational opportunities allowing us to thrive academically.”

In February 2018, Governor Ivey appointed a diverse, 100-member Executive Team to form the Alabama Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (ACGLR) as a critical component of her Strong Start, Strong Finish education initiative and to assist in establishing local campaigns for grade-level reading. The Executive Team organized a collective framework for success to guide Alabama’s efforts in ensuring every single student reads proficiently by the fourth grade, entitled “Alabama Campaign for Grade Level Reading Recommendations to the Governor.” The Campaign integrates Alabama’s early learning and care, K-12 and higher education, and workforce development efforts into a seamless education continuum for all citizens. This vision becomes accessible for all when every Alabama student enters the fourth grade as a proficient reader.

The FY2021 Education Trust Fund budget approved by the Alabama Legislature provides an additional $26.9 million to improve early literacy and support the implementation of the Alabama Literacy Act, and will focus quality literacy initiatives on the early grades of pre-k through the 3rd grade, reinforcing the achievement gains produced by the nationally recognized high quality Alabama First Class Pre-K program. This includes funding for additional reading specialists and summer and after-school programs. The FY2021 budget also provides $9.8 million to continue supporting early educator training in the science of reading for pre-k through 3rd grade teachers, administrators, and coaches.

The “Alabama Campaign for Grade Level Reading Recommendations to the Governor” are designed to kickstart local campaigns for grade-level reading in each of Alabama’s 67 counties. Under the leadership of the Governor’s Office of Education and Workforce Transformation in partnership with the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education, the Campaign will morph into 67 local campaigns through the statewide network of Children’s Policy Councils. This approach will allow the Children’s Policy Councils to address external issues outside of the classroom, such as childhood health, access to nutritious food, and quality after-school and summer programs that directly affect a child’s ability to perform academically.

The Children’s Policy Council (designated as the state’s Early Childhood Advisory Council in 2015) is an effective organization to spread awareness, build upon community partnerships, and utilize the annual CPC needs assessment surveys to determine priorities, needs, gaps, and areas of strength at the county-level. Alabama’s county Children’s Policy Councils understand their local challenges and opportunities and will be instrumental in growing local campaigns to include best practices and strategies for supporting literacy efforts at the local level.

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 Attached is a copy of the final report.

The final report can also be found on the governor’s website:https://governor.alabama.gov/assets/2020/07/Longleaf_GLR_Final_Web.pdf

 

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Alabama DHR announces grants providing temporary assistance for stabilizing child care

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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.

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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].

 

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Gov. Ivey awards grant for new system to aid child abuse victims

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Gov. Kay Ivey delivers the 2019 state of the state address. (CHIP BROWNLEE/APR)

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.

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ADECA manages a range of programs that support law enforcement, economic development, recreation, energy conservation and water resource management.

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Governor announces “Revive Alabama” $100 million small business grant program

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Gov. Kay Ivey speaks at a press conference. (via Governor's Office)

Governor Kay Ivey on Wednesday announced the Revive Alabama grant program to support small businesses in Alabama that have been impacted by COVID-19. Revive Alabama will reimburse small businesses up to a combined $100 million for expenses they have incurred due to operational interruptions caused by the pandemic and related business closures.

“In many ways, our small businesses were hit the hardest from the coronavirus pandemic,” Governor Ivey said. “Ensuring these owners have every opportunity to recoup expenses incurred due the disruption of business is essential to getting our economy roaring once again.”

Alabama received approximately $1.9 billion of CARES Act funding to respond to and mitigate the coronavirus pandemic. Alabama Act 2020-199 designated up to $300 million of the Coronavirus Relief Fund for individuals, businesses, non-profit and faith-based organizations directly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Qualifying businesses may receive up to $15,000 to reimburse these expenses if they have not received federal assistance for the corresponding item they are claiming with the state of Alabama. There is no set cap on the number of businesses that may be awarded a Revive Alabama Small Business Grant. Grants will be awarded to qualifying applicants on a first-come-first-served basis until the funds are exhausted.

Business owners may access the grant application through the Alabama Department of Revenue’s (ALDOR)Revive Alabama website. The application period for the Revive Alabama Small Business Grant Program will open at noon on July 16, 2020 and run through midnight on July 25, 2020.

All applicants must first establish a secure My Alabama Taxes (MAT) account to protect their personal and business information on submitted applications. Small businesses are encouraged to start this process as soon as possible in advance of the application period opening. Each applying business must have its own MAT account to apply for a Revive Alabama Small Business Grant. Tax preparers may not apply for grants on behalf of their clients but may be able to assist potential applicants with information needed to establish their own MAT accounts.

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