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Governor signs infrastructure legislation

Brandon Moseley



Tuesday, March 12 Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R) signed landmark legislation that will give the state an additional $310 million per year to improve infrastructure across the state. The Governor made the legislation the focus of her state of the state address less than a week ago.

“Today, March 12 is a historic day for the state of Alabama,” Gov. Ivey said. “I am so proud to have watched the legislature in its finest hours of operation.”

“Thank you to the new members of the House and Senate for being willing to address a tough subject,” Ivey said. “I am so proud to lead this state,”

“We have chosen to work together in a bipartisan way,” Ivey said. “We will use this new revenue to build a brighter day for the people of Alabama.”

The bill signing ceremony was held in the old House Chambers of Alabama’s historic 1859 Capital Building.

The measure will provide money for all 67 counties and the other 400 towns and cities in the state to begin road projects as early as next year. It will also provide over $11 million a year for the Port of Mobile to dredge a deeper wider shipping channel so that the Port can accommodate more ships as well as then larger post-Panama Canal widening container ships.

The legislation was sponsored by state Representative Bill Poole, R-Tuscaloosa in the House and carried by state Senator Clyde Chambliss, R-Prattville, in the Senate. The House passed the legislation on Friday and went to the Senate which passed it after a short debate on Tuesday.

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A jubilant Ivey thanked Poole, Chambliss, and Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon for their efforts in carrying her legislation.

“I have been working on this legislation for five years,” Speaker McCutcheon said. “We had a governor that was willing to stand up and provide leadership, Gov. Ivey I want to thank you for that.”

“This will move us forward for the children of this state,” McCutcheon said.


Senate President Pro Tempore Del Marsh, R-Anniston, said, “We have been studying this for a year and a half in the Pro Tem’s office.”

“This is a great day for Alabama and I am delighted to be a part of it,” Marsh added.

On the floor of the Senate, the debate was overwhelmingly supportive of the legislation.

Sen. Chambliss said that the legislation was critical to the future of the state.

“Why would anyone come here to live?” Chambliss asked. Why would your children and mine stay here to live? A job and quality of life. We have a good quality of life;”

Chambliss said that economic development means that employers need to be able to ship inputs in, products out, and workers need to drive there to work and all of that takes transportation. Chambliss said that the other southern states have all raised their fuel taxes to improve their infrastructures and that Alabama needed to do the same thing in order to compete.

Sen. Chris Elliott, R-Baldwin County, thanked Chambliss for modifying the original bill to accommodate the needs of fast-growing counties like his own.

“Instead of waiting every ten years to adjust the distribution, we are going to do that every five years,” Chambliss said. “You don’t want to do that every year. That gets confusing.”

Sen. Elliott said, “It strikes a very good balance there. In Baldwin County, we are growing by 40,000 people each ten years.”

Elliott said that the Port of Mobile is crucial to the Alabama economy. “That impacts the poultry industry, the timber industry, auto manufacturing, the coal industry.”

Chambliss said, “I did go down, tour the port and learn about the economic impact of the Port. This is a $25 billion economic impact due to the port.

“We absolutely had to see accountability in this,” Senator Clay Scofield, R-Guntersville said. “We can hold DOT’s feet to the fire and make sure that they are accountable to the people that we represent.”

“We have added several points where entities have to report to the Joint Legislative Committee,” Chambliss said. “That was a point I insisted on before I would even consider voting for a new tax much less carrying one.”

The bill also imposes a $100 a year fee on owners of hybrid vehicles and a $200 fee on owners of plug-in electric vehicles.

State Senate President Tempore Del Marsh, R-Anniston, said that passing this legislation will allow our children to stay in Alabama and get jobs.

Chambliss said that there is mandatory attendance of the Joint Legislative Transportation Committee. “If any member misses two meetings they don’t have a seat anymore. It is important that we hold ourselves accountable before we hold anyone else accountable.

Chambliss said that the Alabama Department of Transportation would not be allowed to use any of the money for administration. “They are going to have to do more work with less.”

“We at the Joint Legislative Transportation Committee have to identify ways that they can do that more efficiently,” Chambliss said.

Senator Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, said that his granddaughter goes to a Christian school in Roebuck and that he lives on the Southside of Birmingham. Driving through malfunction junction to take her to school and then having to go back through it to get to his office every morning made him aware of how serious our infrastructure needs were and then concrete began falling off of the highway there. “That started my mind thinking about infrastructure.”

“I want minority people to be a part of this and get some of this business,” Sen. Smitherman said. Everything I have asked has been addressed. As this thing has evolved, I have to vote it.”

“It is my desire that we pass a lottery bill and half of those funds go into Medicaid expansion and half into the education trust fund,” Smitherman added. “We have too many rural hospitals that have closed and we have too many people who do not have access to healthcare.”

Senator Will Barfoot, R-Montgomery, said, “I am excited that Senator Albritton is chairing the general fund committee and has a seat on the joint legislative committee on transportation.” “I want to compliment you on trying to make it a more palatable bill.”

“We have seen it all on social media,” Barfoot said. “The personal attacks are not appropriate. I applaud the men and women in this chamber and the House as well that voted their convictions.”

Chambliss told Barfoot, “You have had a positive effect on the bill.”

Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed, R-Jasper, told Chambliss: “I am interested in the Port of Mobile because 40 percent of the exports from the Port of Mobile is coal and most of the coal that is mined is in my district. We have thousands of families in my district who are dependent on coal and the port.”

The Alabama State Senate passed the bill on a 28 to 6 vote.

The special session is now over. The regular session will resume on March 19.


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.



Coronavirus task force’s Dr. Deborah Birx says Alabama should extend statewide mask order

Eddie Burkhalter



Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House’s coronavirus task force, met with Gov. Kay Ivey and State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris Thursday.

Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House’s coronavirus task force, said Thursday that Gov. Kay Ivey should extend her statewide mask order, set to expire on Oct. 2. She also responded to a CNN report that cited those close to her as saying she’s “distressed” with the direction the White House coronavirus task force is taking and is unhappy with what she sees as her diminished role in the group. 

Birx, speaking at Auburn University, said she met with Ivey and Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris earlier in the day to discuss COVID-19 and how the state is responding.

“So we really talked about the importance of continuing mitigation,” Birx said of her talk with Ivey and state officials earlier on Thursday, adding that Ivey was one of the first governors in the South to enact a statewide mask mandate, which she said clearly decreased the spread of the disease.

Birx pointed to numbers, such as the test positivity rate, that have improved since July, but said “we’ve got to do even more.” Asked if the statewide mask mandate was one of the mitigation efforts she suggests continuing into the fall, Birx said she does. “Because if you look at what happened within two weeks of the mask mandate you can see the dramatic decline in cases here in Alabama,” Birx said. 

Birx said that when she last visited Alabama in July, the state was suffering from too many new cases of COVID-19. 

“I think when I was last here at the beginning of July, it was a very difficult time in general for Alabama. We saw nearly 95 to 100 percent of every county in Alabama, rural or urban, that had more than 10 percent test positivity to COVID-19,” Birx said, adding that today, around 20 percent of the state’s counties have positivity rates above 10 percent. 

Public health experts believe positivity rates above 5 percent mean that there isn’t enough COVID-19 testing being done and cases are likely going undetected. 

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In a statement to APR on Thursday, a spokeswoman for Ivey said Ivey and Dr. Scott Harris would provide an update on the statewide mask order ahead of its Oct. 2 expiration date. 

“It is evident that Alabamians are doing considerably well in modifying their behaviors to take the COVID-19 pandemic seriously, and we all remain optimistic that a successful vaccine will be coming soon,” said Gina Maiola, Ivey’s press secretary, in a statement to APR on Thursday. “Our state’s success is largely in part to Alabamians stepping up to the plate when it comes to cooperating with the mask ordinance.” 

Maiola said Ivey is leading the way on several fronts “including getting students and teachers back in the classroom, college students returning to campus and businesses remaining open — in fact, Alabama has one of the country’s lowest unemployment rates.” 


“This success is a reality because Alabamians are wearing their masks and maintaining social distancing precautions. Governor Ivey and Dr. Scott Harris will continue closely monitoring our progress and provide an update ahead of the October 2nd expiration,” Maiola continued. 

Speaking to reporters at Auburn, Birx was also asked about a CNN report on Wednesday that cited sources close to Birx as saying she is unhappy with what she sees as her diminished role on the White House coronavirus task force, that she’s not certain how long she can serve in her position and that she is “distressed” with the direction the task force is taking. 

CNN also reported that Birx, who is no longer a fixture at White House coronavirus briefings, views Dr. Scott Atlas, a recent addition to the task force, as an unhealthy influence on President Donald Trump.

Atlas, a neuroradiologist with little experience in public health or epidemiology, has expressed support for the so-called herd immunity “strategy,” which infectious disease expert roundly dismiss as unattainable and a move that would cost millions more lives.  

Instead of being a regular presence at White House coronavirus briefings, Birx has spent recent months traveling the country and speaking with governors and university administrators about coronavirus. 

Asked Thursday about CNN’s reporting, Birx pushed back. 

“Because they wrote that without even speaking to me,” Birx said. “Do I look like a person that’s diminished?” 

CNN reported Wednesday that Birx had not responded to requests for comment on the story. 

“Yes, I have been on the road. I’ve been on the road not as a spokesperson, but on the road to really understand what’s happening across the country, to be in deep dialogue with mayors, with communities, with governors, with administration school and faculty,” Birx said. 

“I’m asked here because I am supposed to be here,” Birx said. “I haven’t been in Washington, and nor was I asked about that, but I’ve actually never been called diminished.” 

Asked if she was planning to leave the task force, Birx said, “I have strong tenacity, and I’m very resilient, and we’re in the middle of a pandemic that’s affecting Americans, and as an American, I think I can do the best service to my country right now by serving in this role, working across the agencies, because that’s the experience that I have.” 

Asked to clarify whether she planned to step down from the task force, Birx said “no.” 

Asked if she was distressed about the direction the task force is taking, Birx said, “well that would be on me, if I was distressed, right, because I’m supposed to be coordinating the groups.” 

“So that would be an indication that I’m not doing my job, and I believe that I do my job pretty well every day. I can always learn to do better,” Birx said.

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Governor announces the Alabama STEM Council






Gov. Kay Ivey on Monday announced that she has signed Executive Order No. 721 establishing the Alabama STEM Council. The council will advise state leadership on ways to improve STEM-related education, career awareness and workforce development opportunities across the state.

“Alabama has continued to grow into an advanced manufacturing, aerospace engineering and cybertechnology center of excellence and as a result, the demand for qualified labor in these sectors has skyrocketed,” Ivey said. “The Alabama STEM Council will play a vital role in ensuring that our state’s future leaders have the opportunity to learn STEM-based skills that will help them transition into successful career pathways upon graduation.”

Science, technology, engineering and mathematics workers play a key role in the sustained growth and stability of Alabama’s economy. As companies continue to relocate or expand in Alabama, the state must develop an adept workforce that is prepared to adequately meet growing labor demands.

Ivey has appointed Dr. Neil Lamb, vice president for educational outreach at HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, as chairman of the council.

“Our great state is home to several quality STEM-focused education and workforce initiatives. However, we lack a common system to weave these initiatives together into a network that reaches all learners across the state and expands the workforce pipeline,” Lamb said. “Establishing a statewide Council was a key recommendation from the Governor’s Advisory Council on Excellence on STEM, and I am thrilled to see that recommendation become reality through the Alabama STEM Council.”

State Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, who chairs the House Education Policy Committee, sponsored a bill in the 2020 Regular Legislative Session that sought to create the Alabama STEM Council as an independent state entity within the Alabama Department of Commerce. Although HB293 passed in the house with unanimous consent, it failed to advance in the Alabama Senate due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’m extremely pleased the governor is taking the lead with the Executive Order to form the STEM Council,” Collins said. “Having the math and science experts from Alabama set high quality standards and guiding student growth in achievement will make a positive difference. Thank you, Governor Ivey, for prioritizing education!”

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Deputy Commerce Secretary Ed Castile, who also serves as the director of the Alabama Industrial Development Training Agency, has played a substantial role in the development of the council.

“The state of Alabama is rapidly evolving in science and technology with new job opportunities developing daily that require a STEM education as a basic foundation. So, STEM education is rapidly becoming the new ‘basic education’ that Alabama jobs require,” Castile said. “With new tech companies developing, manufacturing moving to digital ‘smart factories’ and numerous job opportunities that support these businesses, we must have a workforce that will meet the demands.  The STEM Council will be crucial in working with K-12 education as they develop their STEM programs to align with Community Colleges and Universities to assist students move along the STEM pathways needed by our developing businesses. We, in the Department of Commerce are excited to assist with administrative support of the STEM Council and will be a natural link to the business and commerce of our state.”

The council will hold an initial organizational meeting within 90 days after the issuance of this order.


Members of the council include:

  • Dr. Neil Lamb, Vice President for Educational Outreach, HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology
  • Dr. Charles Nash, University of Alabama System
  • Terry Burkle, Baldwin County Education Foundation
  • Dawn Morrison, Alabama State Department of Education
  • Charisse Stokes, Montgomery Chamber of Commerce
  • Dr. Vicky Karolewics, President, Wallace State Community College
  • Sheila Holt, AMSTI Director, University of Alabama in Huntsville
  • Liz Huntley, Lightfoot, Franklin & White
  • RaSheda Workman, Stillman College
  • Dr. Eric Mackey, State Superintendent of Education
  • Dr. Barbara Cooper, Secretary, Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education
  • Jimmy Baker, Chancellor, Alabama Community College System
  • Dr. Jim Purcell, Executive Director, Alabama Commission on Higher Education
  • Fitzgerald Washington, Secretary, Alabama Department of Labor
  • Greg Canfield, Secretary, Alabama Department of Commerce
  • Tim McCartney, Chairman, Alabama Workforce Council
  • George Clark, President, Manufacture Alabama
  • Dr. Ken Tucker, President, University of West Alabama
  • Dr. Kathryn Lanier, STEM Education Outreach Director, Southern Research
  • Dr. Tina Miller-Way, Dauphin Island Sea Lab
  • Amy Templeton, President and CEO, McWane Science Center
  • Kay Taylor, Director of Education, U.S. Space and Rocket Center
  • Dr. Mary Lou Ewald, Director of Outreach, Auburn University College of Sciences and Mathematics
  • Paul Morin, Alabama SMART Foundation
  • Dr. Adreinne Starks, Founder and CEO, STREAM Innovations
  • Dr. Calvin Briggs, Founder and Director, Southern Center for Broadening Participation in STEM
  • Josh Laney, Director, Alabama Office of Apprenticeship
  • Keith Phillips, Executive Director, Alabama Technology Network
  • Jimmy Hull, Career and Technical Education Director, Alabama State Department of Education
  • Sean Stevens, Career Coach, Alabama State Department of Education
  • Tina Watts, Community Investor, The Boeing Company
  • Daryl Taylor, Vice President and General Manager, Airbus America 
  • K-Rob Thomas, Power Delivery General Manager, Alabama Power 
  • Dr. Lee Meadows, Associate Professor, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, University of Alabama at Birmingham
  • Dr. Tim Wick, Senior Associate Dean, School of Engineering, University of Alabama at Birmingham
  • Dr. Robin McGill, Director of Instruction, Alabama Commission on Higher Education
  • Elisabeth Davis, Assistant Superintendent of the Division of Teaching and Learning, Alabama State Board of Education
  • Dr. Jeff Gray, Professor, Department of Computer Science, University of Alabama
  • Dr. Cynthia McCarty, District 6 Representative, Alabama State Board of Education
  • Dr. Andre Harrison, Vice President, Cognia
  • Brenda Terry, Executive Director, Alabama Mathematics, Science, Technology, and Engineering Coalition for Education
  • Tammy Dunn, Program Director, A+ Education Partnership

A copy of Executive Order No. 721 is available here.

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Governor awards grant to expand court facility dog program






Gov. Kay Ivey has awarded $1.17 million to continue and expand a statewide program that helps children and others who have been victims of crime feel more at ease when testifying in court or undergoing other crime-related interviews.

The grant to the Alabama Office of Prosecution Services will enable that state agency to continue its facility dog program.

The program uses specially trained dogs to calm traumatized victims when they are called into the courtroom or interview room to recount details of often horrific crimes committed against them.

“I cannot imagine what victims, especially children, have to go through when they are called before strangers to recall what is often a very personal and sensitive tragedy that they have difficulty even relaying to family members,” Ivey said. “This program has proven beyond successful and has been admired and modeled by other states. I am pleased to support its continuation and expansion here in Alabama.”

Facility dogs have been used more than 1,000 times including forensic interviews, court hearings, medical examinations and other case-related matters. The dogs are based in several counties, but according to the Office of Prosecution Services, are available for use throughout the state.   

The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs is administering the grant from funds made available to the state from the U.S. Department of Justice.

“The facility dog program has been vastly successful and well received throughout the state,” said ADECA Director Kenneth Boswell. “Although we would prefer that there would be no reason for this program to even exist, ADECA joins with Gov. Ivey in assisting with its continued success.”

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Ivey notified Barry Matson, executive director of Prosecution Services, that the grant had been approved. 

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

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Governor issues State of Emergency ahead of Tropical Storm Sally





Gov. Kay Ivey has issued a State of Emergency for Alabama ahead of Tropical Storm Sally. It is anticipated that this storm system will be upgraded to a hurricane sometime Monday.

“Bad weather is nothing to take lightly. Earlier today, I issued a State of Emergency because those on the Gulf Coast know a flood and heavy rains can be just as deadly as tropical winds,” Ivey said. “We pray that Sally doesn’t do any harm, but we must be prepared just in case. As your governor, you have my assurance that every resource will be available if we need it. Be safe, Alabama.”

The National Hurricane center is forecasting that Sally will be near the mouth of the Mississippi River late tonight. From there, it is forecast to slow down and turn north, and move into the Mississippi coast tomorrow afternoon.

The Alabama and Mississippi Gulf Coasts are under a Hurricane Warning, which also includes New Orleans and southeastern Louisiana coast. A tropical storm warning is in effect from Morgan City, Louisiana, to Panama City, Florida.

Mobile Bay is under a Storm Surge Warning. The combination of a dangerous storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to flood by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline. The current forecast is that the Alabama Gulf Coast, including Mobile Bay, could see a storm surge of four to six feet.

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