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Five major chambers of commerce join in support of Ivey’s infrastructure plan

Chip Brownlee

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Gov. Kay Ivey delivers the 2019 state of the state address before a joint session of the Alabama Legislature in the Old House Chambers of the Alabama State Capitol on March 5, 2019. (Chip Brownlee/APR)

Five major chambers of commerce and the Chamber of Commerce Association of Alabama are joining with the Business Council of Alabama to support the Gov. Kay Ivey’s Rebuild Alabama Bill.

The Birmingham Business Alliance, Chamber of Commerce of Huntsville/Madison County, Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce, Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce and the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama support the legislation to strengthen Alabama’s infrastructure.

“The road to our future must be paved,” said Business Council of Alabama President and CEO Katie Boyd Britt. “Alabama’s transportation system is crucial to our economic growth, and BCA is proud to stand united with these chambers and so many others to support Governor Ivey and the legislature to Rebuild Alabama. Economic development and infrastructure go hand in hand.”

Ivey’s bill would raise the motor fuels tax by 10 cents over three years in order to pay for more infrastructure spending. The bill would also apply fees to hybrid and motor vehicles while allocating more money to improve the Port of Mobile.

“Chambers of Commerce are the pillars of our communities, and we are strongest when we stand together,” said Jeremy Arthur, president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce Association of Alabama which represents more than 100 local chambers in Alabama. “We can no longer sit idling while every other state around us improves their infrastructure and lands the jobs and industries that otherwise would come to Alabama.”

The chambers, county governments and city leaders say increasing Alabama’s public investment in infrastructure is a top priority critical to the economic development community.

“The BBA supports the Rebuild Alabama Act and its intended purpose of increasing Alabama’s public investment in transportation infrastructure, promoting economic growth and increasing public safety on Alabama’s roads,” stated Greg Curran, Chairman of the Firm, Maynard, Cooper & Gale, P.C. and Vice Chairman of the BBA’s public policy committee.

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The Rebuild Alabama legislation will help fund projects across the state, ultimately spurring job growth and ensuring that Alabama is able to successfully compete for new business, the chambers say.

“Transportation infrastructure is vital to the economic vitality of our region and the State.  We applaud the efforts of Governor Ivey, Speaker McCutcheon, Senate Pro-Tem. Marsh, members of the Alabama House and Senate for crafting the Rebuild Alabama Act, stated Chip Cherry, president and CEO of the Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce.  “The increase in funding for transportation infrastructure projects will make the roads safer for our citizens, support economic development, and provide one of the key foundational elements needed for future growth and development.”

Bill Sisson, the Mobile Area Chamber’s president and CEO, said it is incredibly important that the chambers come together as a business community to support this bill.

“As companies look to locate and expand here, they are carefully analyzing our infrastructure capabilities,” Sisson said. “The Port of Mobile is the gateway for Alabama’s exports to reach the world. The better our ports, roads, bridges and traffic patterns are, the faster we will rise on their short list of viable locations.”

The Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce chair Willie Durham said Rebuild Alabama is critical in order for local communities and the state to be a competitor in economic development.

Jim Page, the president of the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama, agreed.

“Governor Ivey’s Rebuild Alabama package also creates unprecedented accountability and oversight of transportation revenue,” Page said. “Our chambers urge Alabama lawmakers to approve this long overdue legislation. Failure to do so has too great a cost – in lost economic opportunities and, most importantly, in lives.”

The organizations all agree that increasing Alabama’s investment in transportation infrastructure to sustain and promote economic growth, job creation, quality of life and public safety is a necessity.

 

Chip Brownlee is a political reporter, online content manager and webmaster at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or reach him via Twitter.

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Senate pro tem requests general fund committee begin hearings in July

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Senate President Pro Tempore Del Marsh, R-Anniston, announced today that he has asked Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee Chairman Greg Albritton, R-Range, to begin holding General Fund Committee meetings in preparation for the next session.

In an effort to be better prepared because of uncertainty in state revenue as a result of COVID-19 pandemic Senator Albritton has agreed with Senator Marsh and has invited Legislative Services, the Department of Finance, Pardons and Paroles, Corrections and the Personnel Department to provide updates to the committee.

“Typically, we begin this process closer to sessions however because of uncertainty about state income and possibility of special sessions, we felt like it was important to get started much earlier than usual in this process,” Senator Albritton said. “The Legislature has done an excellent job managing our budgets over the past few years. So much so that Alabama was able to weather the storm of the COVID-19 shutdown this year with little impact to our vital state services. We understand that we will not have final revenue projections until after July 15th, but we must continue to do our due diligence and ensure that we use taxpayer money sensibly.”

“We want to make sure that all public money is being used wisely, now and in the future,” Senator Marsh said. “We have many pressing issues facing the state such as a potential $2 billion-dollar prison reform proposal and a stunning lack of rural broadband investment which need to be addressed whenever the Legislature is back in session and it is our duty to make sure we are prepared and kept up to speed on these matters. Furthermore, the taxpayers deserve a clear and transparent view of how their money is being used.”

The hearings are scheduled to begin July 9 in the Alabama State House.

 

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Part-time employee in lieutenant governor’s office tests positive for COVID-19

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A part-time employee in Lieutenant Governor Will Ainsworth’s office, who the office said works only a handful of hours each week, tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday, according to a press statement.

The employee, whose work area is separated from the rest of the staff, last worked in the office on the morning of Thursday, June 18.

All members of the office staff have been tested or are in the process of being tested for COVID-19 in response, and, thus far, no additional positive results have been reported.

In addition, the State House suite has been thoroughly cleaned and will remain closed until all employees’ test results have been returned.

Employees are working remotely from home, and phones are being answered in order to continue providing services to the citizens who need them.

 

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Three workers at ADOC headquarters among latest to test positive for COVID-19

Eddie Burkhalter

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Sixteen more Alabama Department of Corrections employees, including three at the department’s headquarters in Montgomery, have tested positive for COVID-19. 

The department’s latest update, released Monday evening, puts the total of confirmed cases among employees at 99, with 73 cases still active. 

Five more inmates have tested positive for COVID-19 as well, including inmates at the Donaldson Correctional Facility, the Easterling Correctional Facility, the Kilby Correctional Facility, the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women and the St. Clair Correctional Facility.

18 of 27 confirmed cases among inmates remained active as of Monday, according to ADOC. 

Of the department’s 28 facilities, there have been confirmed COVID-19 cases among staff or inmates in 21. Of the state’s approximately 22,000 inmates, 214 had been tested as of Friday. 

Areas inside numerous state prisons are under quarantine, with ADOC staff either limiting inmate movements to those areas or checking for symptoms regularly and conducting twice daily temperature checks, according to the department.

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Still work to be done on an Alabama gambling deal

Josh Moon

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A grand deal on gambling is possible in Alabama, but there’s still a long way to go. 

That was essentially the message that representatives from the Poarch Creek Indians and owners of non-Indian casinos around the state gave Friday to Gov. Kay Ivey’s Study Group on Gambling Policy. The 12-member group heard presentations, via Zoom, from representatives from all the tracks and casinos in the state, as it continues in its quest to put together a proposal that Ivey and state lawmakers can use to hopefully craft future gambling legislation. 

To move forward with almost any legislation will require an agreement of some sort between PCI, Lewis Benefield, who operates VictoryLand and the Birmingham Race Course, and Nat Winn, the CEO of GreeneTrack. The owners of smaller electronic bingo halls in Greene and Lowndes Counties will also have some input. 

The tug of war between these various entities has, over the last several years, prevented an expansion of gambling. It also has left the state in a weird situation in which casinos are operating on a daily basis but there are numerous legal questions and the state is making very little in the way of tax dollars from any of them. 

But with public support for lotteries, sportsbooks and even full casino gambling at all-time highs (even a majority of Republican voters surveyed said they support full casinos in the state), and with neighboring states rapidly expanding offerings, state lawmakers seem ready to push through legislation to make it happen. 

And now, it seems, the two sides in this fight — PCI and the track owners — are ready to make a deal. 

“I feel like there’s a plan out there that would benefit all of us,” said Benefield, who is the son-in-law of Milton McGregor, who passed away in 2018. “I’d like to see us put together something that gets these customers back from surrounding states. I just really feel like we can work together.”

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Benefield wasn’t alone in those feelings. 

“We stand ready to sit down and talk (about a grand deal) with anyone,” said Arthur Mothershed, who, as vice president of business development for PCI, handled the tribe’s presentation on Friday. 

Mothershed and Benefield have each said previously, and APR has reported, that the tribe and the non-Indian entities have held several discussions over the last few months in a quest to work out a deal. 

There is a new, old player involved, however. 

Former Gov. Jim Folsom, now a lobbyist, represented several Greene County electronic bingo entities, including GreeneTrack, during the conference. Folsom and others representing the bingo casinos told the group that bingo is essentially the financial lifeblood for their county, and that without it multiple county services could go unfunded. 

Ivey’s study group has met four times with the goal of providing state lawmakers with clear answers on questions of revenue, risks and options for gaming types. Any legislation approved by lawmakers would have to be approved by voters.

 

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