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Gov. Kay Ivey’s 2020 State of the State Address

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)
Kay Ivey

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Below is a full transcript of Gov. Kay Ivey’s 2020 State of the State Address as prepared.


Lieutenant Governor Ainsworth, Pro Tempore Marsh, Speaker McCutcheon, Speaker Pro Tempore Gaston, members of the Alabama Legislature, Chief Justice Parker, justices of the Alabama Supreme Court, distinguished guests – and my fellow Alabamians:

Thank you for allowing me to address you — and the 4.8 million other citizens for whom we all work —with an update on this place we know and love, our Sweet Home, Alabama!

As you can see, I’m working with one arm – not tied behind my back – just tied up! But, as I always say, there’s no step too high for a high stepper! I’ll be fine.

Last month, I had the pleasure of joining you — and many others from around the state — in participating in Alabama’s Bicentennial Celebration.

Thanks to you, we not only marked our first 200 years in fine fashion, but, together, we began writing the first chapter of our next century. And with the continued involvement of all our people — and with God’s continued blessings — there is every reason to believe that our third century will be our best yet!

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Governor Thomas Kilby, Alabama’s 36th governor, stepped onto this very spot — in this historic chamber — one hundred years ago to speak to the people of our state about what Alabama’s second century might look like.

Like me, Governor Kilby had served as Alabama’s Lieutenant Governor prior to being elected governor. He would go on to increase funding for public education and public health, invest in new roads and bridges, while also devoting more attention and additional dollars to law enforcement and yes, even to build a new prison.

Governor Kilby understood that government action can oftentimes become the engine for economic expansion and that education is the key to both economic and social success.

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As the old saying goes, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”

Members of the Legislature, on this first day of the 2020 legislative session, we can be confident with our plans to build on our past as we step boldly into a new century for our great state. Our 3rd century begins with a strong, robust economy and a renewed commitment to look for new opportunities to answer old challenges, many of which have been around for decades.

Shortly after becoming your governor in April 2017, I realized that our great state had ignored too many problems for far too long. We had put Band-Aids and duct tape on old ideas, old roads and bridges, and tired old prisons long enough.

While these challenges can seem daunting, we know that one person can make a difference if you remain true to your core values. A challenge is an unmet opportunity. For me, those are to always tell the truth, to level with the people of Alabama and always shoot straight, and to not be afraid to take on difficult challenges.

I believed then — as today — that Alabamians were ready to do big things!

Each one of you – in one way or another – confirmed these beliefs with what, together, we achieved during our first Legislative Session of the Quadrennium last year.

And for that reason — and a whole lot more — I am proud and extremely pleased to report to you tonight that the State of our State is strong and growing.

Early on, I made one of the most important decisions I would make as your governor, and that was to begin regular meetings with the Bipartisan Leadership of both the House and Senate.

Look, no one here will be shocked to learn that our two political parties don’t always see eye-to-eye.

But unlike what we’ve seen nationally, I knew that no one party has a monopoly on good ideas. And I felt — and time has proven me correct — that these bipartisan meetings would help us come up with bipartisan solutions on everything from infrastructure funding to hopefully improving our state’s education system.

Success breeds success. And there is no better time to think big – and be bold – than now! Our future generations depend on us to do so.

A prime example of the benefit of working together was Rebuild Alabama.

Many pundits – and longtime observers of the Legislature – noted that the first session of the Quadrennium last spring was one of the most productive in decades.

To that end, I want to sincerely thank each of you for helping us address one problem that other legislatures and governors before us put off for 27 years… dealing openly and honestly with our aging, crumbling infrastructure.

In recent weeks and months, we have announced the state’s portion of $122 million worth of road and bridge projects in more than 48 of Alabama’s 67 counties. And this is just six months after the new revenue began coming in.

And as I promised the people of Alabama on the day I signed this bill into law, Rebuild Alabama will only be spent on building roads and bridges. And, in fact, we added strong accountability measures to make certain of this.

It was the first of many bipartisan efforts that we accomplished last year. And the good news is Alabama still has one of the lowest gas prices of any state in the nation!

One of my top priorities for this upcoming session is tackling another problem that others have either chosen to ignore or been unable to solve.

Both my strong faith in the Lord – and a heartfelt concern for basic human rights – gives me a sense of urgency to address our longstanding challenges within our criminal justice system. Ladies and gentlemen, we simply cannot afford to wait any longer to tackle this problem… and failure is not an option.

Thanks to the support of the Alabama Legislature, we made good progress during the last session to address the issue of understaffing. I’m pleased to report that our recruiting and retention efforts are improving and moving in the right direction.

Over the past seven months, the Criminal Justice Study Group I appointed last year analyzed many of the crucial components necessary to address the needs to rehabilitate those within our prison system.

I am exceptionally proud of the hard work – and tireless efforts – of Justice Champ Lyons and Senators Chambliss, Ward and Singleton and Representatives Rowe, Hill, and England – for their willingness to put any preconceptions aside, leave politics at the door and work together for what is truly in the best interests of our state.

I look forward to working with the Legislature – and others – on bills specifically designed to address some of these issues.

Currently, work is well underway in addressing our antiquated and crumbling prison infrastructure. In the past few weeks, I visited Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore and Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka to see these issues firsthand.

Some of our worst, most over-crowded facilities – one of which was built more than 90 years ago — were never designed for the number of violent offenders we have today.

That is why I tasked Commissioner Dunn to spearhead the efforts to build three new prisons that will transition our facilities from warehousing inmates to rehabilitating people.

Ladies and gentlemen, Alabama has no choice but to reinvent our corrections system by replacing outdated and unsafe facilities that pose a great risk to public safety – and inhibit development of programs for inmate rehabilitation.

You’ve heard me say this before, this is an Alabama problem that must have an Alabama solution. I look forward to working with each of you.

To aid with successful reentry, the Community College System provides educational, technical and workforce training.

Ingram State, where I also visited recently, is the only postsecondary institution in the country that exclusively serves the incarcerated population.

Y’all, this partnership is changing lives. Just ask Brandie McCain.

In just one year, Brandie had completed the coursework needed for three logistics certificates at Ingram State. She was among the first group of Ingram students to earn a nationally recognized credential in logistics.

Brandie worked with Ingram’s job placement team to locate a job where she could use her newly acquired skills. With their assistance, she landed a job at Wright Way Staffing in Fairfield, where she quickly moved up the ranks to become an office administrator and staff recruiter.

In her new role as an employer, Brandie is giving back by looking to hire other qualified Ingram State graduates. Brandie, please stand.

Members of the Alabama Legislature, please join me in welcoming Brandie McCain and applauding her incredible achievement!

As important as it is to fix our prisons, an even better investment, long-term, is building a world-class public education system.

In a few minutes, I’m going to outline my plans for how we will continue making investments toward this goal. But first, I want to, once again, level with you, the Members of the Legislature, and perhaps more importantly, with the people of Alabama.

During last year’s session, the Legislature gave the voters of Alabama an opportunity to help move our education system in a bold, new direction, by having an opportunity to vote on AMENDMENT ONE, which will be on the March 3rd primary ballot.

Unfortunately, we’ve gotten all-too-complacent to being at or near the bottom of national education rankings.

Ask yourself this question: Is there any high school in Alabama, much less any college or university, that would continue to keep a head coach who produced teams that were consistently dead last? Would Auburn or Alabama?

Sadly, too many of our third graders are not proficient in reading. In fact, according to the Nation’s Report Card, we are 49th in the nation in reading and we are 52nd in the nation in math! And it only gets worse as they get older… too many of our high school graduates simply aren’t ready for college or a career.

Let me be abundantly clear… this isn’t the fault of our hard-working teachers, principals or local superintendents…Folks, it starts at the top.

Alabama is one of only six states that still has an elected state school board and this board has selected 5 State Superintendents in the past 5 years.

Very simply, Amendment One will create term limits for the State Board and no member will serve more than two six-year terms, thus bringing fresh new ideas to the commission every few years.

Equally important, the newly constituted board will reflect the racial, gender and geographic diversity to reflect the make-up of students in our public school system.

There’s no other way to say it but our current system isn’t working.

For us to prepare today’s students for tomorrow’s opportunities, it is time we get serious:
It’s time for creativity.
It’s time for accountability.
It’s time for stability.

It’s time to vote YES for Amendment One on March 3rd!

Despite our challenges in education, there has been much progress in some areas that are worth noting.

Since becoming your Governor in April 2017, the early results from our ‘Strong Start, Strong Finish’ initiative give us every reason to be extremely optimistic.

When fully implemented, our students who get the best start possible, early on, are all but guaranteed that they have endless opportunities when pursuing their dreams post high school.

We all know that a world-class workforce begins with a world-class education system.

And the path that leads to that starts with a solid foundation constructed during the first 5 years of life.

Just think… 95% of a child’s brain develops from birth to age 5.

My education budget that I am proposing will provide an additional $25 million dollars to expand our nationally-recognized First Class Pre-K program. This significant increase will expand the program by another 193 classrooms.

The bottom line is simple… Providing the tools for a great start in life will yield dividends for generations to come. Join me in applauding Secretary Jeana Ross and her team at the nationally-recognized Department of Early Childhood Education for having the nation’s best Pre-K program year after year.

Speaking of investing in our future, tonight I am proposing a $1 billion-dollar public school and college authority for K-12 education, as well as for our two- and four-year colleges and universities.

This money will be distributed on a formula basis to allow for much-needed capital improvements across the state. Equally important, this bond will not include any legislative earmarks for pet projects.

It has been almost 14 years since Alabama made an investment of this size by providing direct help to our schools. And whether it is for new construction, safety improvements or technology upgrades, this billion-dollar investment is coming at the right time and for the right reasons. I urge the members of the Legislature to help us make this investment a top priority for Alabama’s future. Our children are counting on us.

As I said before, the challenges we face with our public schools can’t be blamed on the teachers, the administrators or the students. Our teachers are vitally important to our student’s future; I am living proof of this.

Growing up in Camden, my first-grade teacher was Mrs. Elise Hickey and she was a favorite. She left a lasting impact on my life by creating within me a passion for reading. It was because of her that led me to believe that if a child can learn to read, they can learn to do anything.

Ladies and gentlemen, Mrs. Hickey is one of the reasons I stand here as Governor!

Teachers in our state deserve to be compensated for their hard work. They instill a love of learning in our students and help them dream to become the next generation of doctors, economic developers, and small business owners.

That is why I am proposing a three percent pay raise for all teachers: pre-k through community college.

While no state in the nation has had more success in recent years attracting new investment and new industry, Alabama must redouble our efforts to ensure that we will have the most-sought after and qualified workforce in the country.

We have set an ambitious — but needed goal — of 500,000 employees with post-secondary credentials by 2025 that will stretch across all aspects of our education and workforce system. Our future depends on it.

Last year, an unemployed Army veteran, John Carroll, came to the Decatur Career Center hoping to turn his life around. He was going through some personal troubles and was out of work.

That’s when Carl Flemons, a veteran’s representative at the Department of Labor, stepped in.

Carl helped John work on his résumé, helped him apply for jobs, and most importantly, helped him restore confidence in his skills and abilities. With the Career Center’s help, John landed a job at a local door manufacturing company.

Within a few months, thanks to his hard work and determination, he turned that opportunity into another job with LG Electronics as a safety coordinator. John is still employed there today even though a few months ago, he was facing considerable barriers to employment. Both John and Carl are with us this evening and we welcome you to your State Capitol!

Carl, your example of going above and beyond is representative of so many of our dedicated state employees. For that reason, and many others, I am also calling on our Legislature to provide a two percent increase for all state employees. This is the third straight year our state employees will see an increase in their paychecks.

Whether it is the State Trooper patrolling our highways or a social worker rescuing an abused child, we can be proud to have so many dedicated men and women who are giving their best to the people of Alabama.

And speaking of giving one’s best, please join me in congratulating the team at the Department of Human Resources, led by our dedicated Commissioner Nancy Buckner, for leading the nation two years in a row in placing foster children in a permanent, loving home. It’s one thing to talk about helping a child; it’s another thing to actually do it.

Folks, I’d like to take this opportunity to recognize all the members of the Ivey Administration – let’s let them know how much we appreciate their efforts and what they do everyday for our state.

As we all know, 2019 was an especially difficult year for those who wear a badge.

Seven members of the Alabama Law Enforcement community were killed in the line of duty.

These heroes exhibited the best virtues of our state – they were selfless, brave, dedicated and, in the end, willing to sacrifice their lives for all of us.

Representing these families, we have Mrs. Joanne Williams, the widow of Lowndes County Sheriff Big John Williams, with us tonight.

Mrs. Williams, thank you for being here.

Please join me as we observe a moment of silence to remember all those who died in the greatest act of selfless service to the people of Alabama.

And All of God’s people say, “Amen!”

Obviously, one of our most basic responsibilities of government is ensuring that we have a robust sector of public safety.

I’m proud to report that under the solid leadership of Secretary Hal Taylor, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency has increased protection on our state’s roads and waterways.

For too long, we were operating on a bare-bones structure that increased delays in waiting for help on the side of the road and limited the number of highway patrol officers whose job is to keep us safe.

This has been a top focus of my administration and with your help, we have increased the number of Troopers from 365 to 435, a net increase of 19%! We have almost doubled our marine officers from 24 to 42! My budget will include additional funding to hire and train 50 additional sworn officers.

Since coming into office, I have made no secret of the fact that one of the most critical issues we face — one that will affect every single Alabamian — is the upcoming Census in March. 2020 will be a make or break year for our state.

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of what a full and accurate count in the 2020 Census means for our State. These numbers have a direct impact on our state’s representation in the U.S. House of Representatives as well as on the billions of dollars in federal funding…that’s billions with a “b”…that affect schools, community programs, health care, and job opportunities for our state.

Thanks to the leadership of ADECA Director Kenneth Boswell and his team, we are going all out to get everyone to be all in.

It is ever so important for every Alabamian to join me in saying “I Count” by completing a census form!

Other important areas that are being worked on daily by my Administration:

Access to broadband; it is a top priority to continue increasing the availability of high-speed Internet throughout the state, especially in rural Alabama, through the Broadband Accessibility Fund.

While state government can’t do it alone— and we are counting on the help of our partners in the private sector— my budget will continue to provide funding to connect as many people as possible during the coming years.

Currently, some 220,000 Alabamians do not have any wired Internet providers where they live. Our efforts will not end until every Alabamian has access through high speed broadband.

Much as Governor Kilby increased funding in public health one hundred years ago, my budget will make a substantial investment in the area of health care… both rural health and mental health as well.

Another sign of our commitment to improving the lives of those who live in rural Alabama is my full support for a pilot program to incentivize primary care physicians and nurse practitioners to establish services in medically underserved areas.

I am calling on the Legislature to support my rural health care initiatives which, among other things, will help improve basic primary care in many deserving communities. By encouraging these medical professionals to build a practice in these areas, we can literally transform many small towns throughout the state.

And thanks to the innovative leadership being provided by Mental Health Commissioner Lynn Beshear and her team, I am also calling on the Legislature to provide funding to build three new crisis centers in the state. When open and fully staffed, these centers will become a safe haven for people facing mental health challenges; here, they can be stabilized and treated without being sent to a jail or the hospital.

Special thanks go to House Majority Leader Ledbetter and the members from both parties and both chambers who have been working with him to lead the charge to put additional emphasis on this important area of public service.

I am also proud that our Mental Health Department is partnering with the Department of Education to ensure we are promoting “Whole Child Wellness.”

The fact is…our students are with us for at least 8 hours a day and many come from a home-life that few of us can imagine. Our students are increasingly dealing with challenges and pressure for which most teachers aren’t trained or prepared to deal with; these young people need our help and we are going to do our part.

As the Members of the Legislature begin this upcoming session, let me close my remarks tonight with a reminder, a challenge and a promise.

First the reminder:

We are starting our new century enjoying the best economy our state has ever had. Ever!

Thanks to the hard work of Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield and his team — as well as Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington and his folks — these are unquestionably the best of times.

We have the lowest unemployment rate in our 200-year history at 2.7 percent.

More than 82,000 of our fellow citizens are working today than were working just a year ago.

At the beginning of last year, economists predicted we would gain 27,000 jobs in 2019. In true Alabama fashion, our economy beat those expectations by gaining nearly 77,000 jobs! That, too, is a record for our state!

And fewer people are living in poverty than ever before.

Y’all, these results don’t just happen because we want them to. They are happening because we are working together, more united than ever before.

Even so, there are some 60,000 Alabamians seeking employment opportunities. Still others are hoping to climb the next step up the economic ladder.

I say to everyone across our state who is still climbing – we will not leave you behind.

My reminder is that every challenge is an opportunity waiting for action. And while we are enjoying the best of times — and my budgets and these requests reflect that — we must prepare for a changing environment — one beyond our control — that recognizes times won’t always be this good.

To that end, here is my challenge.

For years, going back to 1999 when Governor Siegelman was promoting an Alabama lottery, we’ve been hearing that expanding gaming in some form, perhaps a lottery — or maybe a compact with our Native American neighbors — would solve all our problems and provide money for all sorts of good ideas.

Keep in mind, the last time the Legislature gave the voters had an opportunity to cast their vote, the so-called “education lottery” was voted down by the people of Alabama by 54 to 46 percent. It wasn’t even close.

Since then we’ve heard promises of hundreds of millions of dollars — now we are up to a billion dollars — that would be available if the Legislature would give the people another opportunity to vote on a lottery or if I would negotiate a compact… If it were only that simple.

Many of our legislators were not even serving the last time a Governor had to declare our budgets in proration, making sweeping, across-the-board cuts. But I remember those times and let me tell you, we do not want to go back there.

That is why I will be signing an Executive Order to establish a small working group of some of Alabama’s most distinguished citizens, to begin working, to gather all the facts on how much money we could really gain if some form of gaming expansion occurred. Vetting on these individuals is already underway and I will be releasing these names in the coming days.

Like you, I’m fully aware that the four states which border us all have some form of gaming.

And neither you nor I are naïve enough to believe that we’re benefitting in any way when our people cross the state line to bet on a game of chance.

While I, personally, have never believed we should fund essential state services on such an unstable source of funding, I have always maintained that the people of Alabama should have the final say on whether or not we are going down this path.

So that, my friends, is what this working Group will be charged to get – the facts!

Once they have done so — I will bring these facts to the 140 members of the Legislature and the people of Alabama. And we will then, once and for all, be in a position to determine whether or not this is a path we want to pursue.

Ultimately, my pledge would be for the people of Alabama to have the final say. But first, we must get the facts and understand what they mean.

My challenge to the Legislature is: give us some time to get the facts and then, together, we will give the people of Alabama the information they need to make the most informed decision possible.

As you know, when we have achieved great success in the past, it was only accomplished through a bipartisan effort and many months of advocacy to do what is in the best interest for the people of our state.

Finally, my promise.

Throughout my service as governor, I have pledged to level with you and be a governor who doesn’t shrink from responsibility just because it is hard.

I promise you this – I’m going to do all I can to help lead our state to solve tough problems and realize our untapped potential. Serving as your governor has been the utmost honor and privilege of my life.

You see, I truly believe this is our moment… as we step confidently into our third century… to do the things that need to be done, for both today and in the years to come.

And, ladies and gentlemen, I cannot do this without your help, your partnership and your support. Together, let’s make this moment count.

May God continue to bless you and the great state of Alabama.

The above transcript does not reflect the speech Ivey actually delivered.

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House

Alabama lawmakers advance bill banning transgender athletes in K-12 sports

Jessa Reid Bolling

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A House committee voted Wednesday to advance a bill that would ban transgender teenagers from playing on the sports teams of the gender they identify with. 

House Bill 35, titled the Gender Is Real Legislative Act, or GIRL Act, would require student athletes in K-12 schools to participate as the gender listed on their birth certificate, preventing transgender athletes from competing as the gender they identify as.

Sponsored by Rep. Chris Pringle, R-Mobile, the bill passed the House State Government Committee on an 8-4 vote. The bill will now go to the full House. 

The bill, according to Pringle, is aimed at preserving the accomplishments of women and to prevent women from having to compete against athletes who were born male.

“Gender is real. There are biological differences between boys and girls that influence athletic performance,” Pringle said in a statement. “The GIRL Bill seeks to support female student-athletes, so that they may compete against each other and not have to compete against male students with an unfair advantage.”

Opponents say that HB35 was born out of prejudice against transgender youth rather than seeking to protect women in athletics. 

Carmarion D. Anderson, Alabama state director of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), an LGBTQ+ rights organization, called the bill a “political advertisement” with no supporting evidence

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Anderson said she believes this bill will do harm to young transgender youth by segregating them from competing in sports events, further contributing to the ostracization trans youth feel in society.

“We’re concerned about a student’s mental health when they cannot participate in the sports that are comfortable for them, and the level of dysphoria they already face when they are transitioning,” said Anderson. 

Anderson also said that while it is unfortunate that this bill passed the committee, HRC will be at the forefront to try to see the bill defeated. 

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The bill now heads to the full House.

 

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House

Legislation may harm pets locked in hot cars, not help, vets and advocates say

Eddie Burkhalter

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A bill passed by the Alabama Senate last week lawmakers say will help keep pets trapped in hot cars safe, might actually endanger the animals, according to some animal advocates and veterinarians.

That bill was written by a dog breeder who some worry purposefully wrote the bill to make it harder to keep animals safe, and to instead protect breeders from having animals confiscated, they told APR this week. 

Mindy Gilbert, The Human Society’s Alabama state director, told APR by phone on Tuesday that she’s certain that the senate bill’s sponsor, Alabama Sen. Jimmy Holley, R-Elba, “does have good intentions, but I think the devils in the details.” 

Several attempts this week to reach Rep. Holley were unsuccessful. 

The bill would grant criminal immunity to a civilian who rescues an animal from a vehicle, and would provide civil and criminal immunity to first responders who do so. The legislation also makes it a misdemeanor crime if a pet dies in a hot car. 

Gilbert said that while those might also sound like great ideas, the bill would actually reduce criminal penalties for allowing a pet to die in a hot car. 

“Our current cruelty statute, which has been used in cases like this, would define that as a class C felony,” Gilbert said. 

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A Trussville woman in 2018 was charged with felony aggravated cruelty to animals for leaving her dog in a locked car while shopping in Walmart. The dog died after police broke out a window and removed the distressed animal. 

The bill also states that the ambient temperature of the interior of a vehicle must be 99 degrees or hotter to be charged under the legislation. 

Gilbert said she’s spoken with numerous veterinarians who all said that 99 degrees is too hot to be safe for pets trapped in cars. 

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Gilbert said that for many breeds of pets, and pets with compromised health, “that requirement in order to rescue them will absolutely sentence them to death,” and there are other aspects of the bill that trouble her. 

“I think everybody was very focused on providing immunity to first responders, which I think is fabulous,” Gilbert said of the legislation, but worried that it doesn’t include animal control personnel in its definition of public safety officials and covered by the bill’s immunity clause. 

Holley’s legislation defines public safety officials as “An individual employed by a law enforcement agency, fire department, or 911 emergency service.” 

Dr. Mark Colicchio, a veterinarian in Spanish Fort, reached out to Sen. Holley and all of the members of the state Senate Judiciary Committee about his concerns with the bill prior to its passage in the senate. Holley put Colicchio in touch with the man he said wrote the bill, Norman Horton.

Colicchio said he spoke to Horton, owner of the Dale County german shepherd breeding company Triple S Shepherds, at length about his concerns, but that none were addressed in the final legislation. 

“There are a lot of temperature references in there which make no sense whatsoever,” Colicchio said. 

Colicchio said he spoke with Horton about the bill’s language that required the ambient temperature of the interior of a vehicle to be 99 degrees or higher before a person could be charged. He said he told Horton that there’s no practical way for a public safety official to measure the ambient temperature inside a locked vehicle from outside, to which he said Horton suggested they call carry digital temperature readers. 

Such devices measure surface temperatures, and wouldn’t  be able to read the temperature inside a locked car, Colicchio said. 

After speaking with veterinarians at Auburn University’s College of Veterinary Medicine Cholicchio said they looked at data that suggested that if the outside temperature of a vehicle, which can be more easily measured, was 78 degrees an animal trapped inside with no ventilation could be in jeopardy. 

Colicchio said he suspects the legislation was purposely written to protect owners from having their animals taken from them in the event they’re left in hot cars. 

“He doesn’t want breeders to risk having their valuable dogs stolen out of the car because somebody thinks they’re at risk,” Colicchio said. “…When you structure a law to benefit yourself, and animals suffer for it, that just gets to me.” 

Horton, speaking by phone Wednesday,  told APR that he wrote the bill to protect animals and to establish the proper way to rescue an animal in distress. 

“This is America, and this is Alabama, and if someone’s gonna be guilty of a crime or charged for a crime then they need to have committed that crime” Horton said. 

Horton said “we don’t need vigilante justice” so he wrote the bill to make clear how best to enter a vehicle if an animal is in need of help. 

Asked how he decided that 99 degrees inside a vehicle was the temperature at which a pet was in danger, Horton said “I got the figure after talking to several veterinarians.” 

Asked which veterinarians he spoke to get that figure, Horton said “that’s immaterial” and declined to name them. 

Horton likened the matter to speed laws, and said while some speed limits are set at 70 MPH, some people, such as police officers, can drive safely at speeds up to 113mph. 

Asked why the bill doesn’t include animal control officers in the immunity protections, Horton said that “it does.” 

Horton pointed to the bill’s language that defines public safety officials as “An individual employed by a law enforcement agency” and said “go to Tuscaloosa. Go to any of the cities around, and animal control officers are employed by the police department. They’re sworn officers.” 

Some animal control officers who work in municipal law enforcement agencies are sworn officers, Gilbert said, but many are not, and in the counties, where animal control is operated as stand-alone agencies, animal control officers are not sworn officers and wouldn’t be immune from prosecution under the legislation. 

Asked why his bill didn’t include all animal control officers, whether they were sworn officers working in law enforcement agencies or not, Horton suggested that it was to ensure owners could be charged with crimes 

“Do we want to charge for the crime when they do something like this or just let them go?” Horton said. 

Horton declined to answer a question about the bill’s language that limits the charge of killing an animal in a hot vehicle to a misdemeanor and soon after ended the interview. 

“It’s not to help the animals,” Colicchio said of the legislation. “That’s the wolf in sheep’s clothing.” 

It was unclear Wednesday if Holley’s bill had a sponsor in the state House. There were no similar bills filed Wednesday, according to the state Legislature’s website.

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Legislature

Senate Committee approves medical marijuana bill

Brandon Moseley

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Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee gave a favorable report to a bill that would allow Alabama residents to obtain medical marijuana on an 8 to 1 vote. Senate Bill 167 was sponsored by State Senator Tim Melson (R-Florence).

SB167 would create a tightly regulated network of state-licensed marijuana growers, dispensaries, transporters, and processors. Patients would have to get a recommendation for the drug from their physician. Only physicians who have received the approved training would be able to dispense the cannabis-derived treatments. There would be no smokable products allowed and consumer possession of marijuana in its raw natural form would remain illegal in the state.

Sen. Melson is a retired anesthesiologist who now works in medical research.

“I would not have carried this bill three or four years ago,” Melson said. But there is a growing body of medical evidence that there are medical benefits.

Melson said that while this bill does have provisions for growing and processing marijuana in states there is also, “An option for it to come from outside.”

Melson said that under this bill we will know what is being grown, being processed, and reaches the consumer. The medical association will recommend the training and the education component for the physician. Patients will be issued a medical cannabis card. “The card will not be good in other states.”

Melson said that Alabama dispensaries will not accept out of state medical cannabis cards except one time a year they can get a one-time emergency order. The number of dispensaries will be limited to 34 total. Patients will be allowed to get just a 70-day supply. There is no smoking and no vaping. People in rural areas will have to go far to get one of the dispensaries. There is a, “Balancing act between convenience and safety. There are fifteen qualifying conditions.”

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Rick Hagans is a minister with Harvest Evangelism, which runs Christian rehabs for both men and women drug addicts.

“The gateway that led to methamphetamines and opioids began with marijuana,” Hagans said. “We have found in forty years of work that it is a gateway drug.”

Hagans dismissed the medical benefits claims, “Medical profession said the same thing with opioids. I ask that you proceed with caution and concern. I get tired of burying your sons and daughters,”

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“Thank you for giving us Leni’s Law, but it is not enough,” Christie Kaine said. “I am the Mother of a child with intractable epilepsy. We know from our research that there are other cannaboids that can help with Hardy’s condition, but they can not be used in Alabama due to the level of THC. If Hardy did not live in Alabama he could be seizure-free.

Caleb Crosby with the Alabama Policy Institute said, “It is a real issue and something has to be done about it. Our concern is unintended consequences.”

Crosby said that Republicans, “Run on small government, but this does the opposite.”

“We still have a litany of laws carried over from Prohibition one hundred years ago,” Crosby said. “You will not be able to get rid of all of these regulations and taxes.”

Cynthia Atkinson’s husband was longtime WSFA meteorologist Dan Atkinson, who was also on the Weather Channel.

“Dan had Parkinson’s for ten years,” Atkinson said. “The last five years he suffered from tremendous pain.” He had excellent doctors at the Mayo Clinic and Kirklin Clinic. They did their best.” Dan was prescribed Oxycodone, hydrocodone, lorazepam, and as he got progressively worse morphine. We learned that Israel has been studying cannabis since the 1950s. In 2015 we went to Colorado.” He used patches with 10 mg of CBD and 10 mg of THC. The leg cramps went away. We wanted to bring it back but couldn’t because of the law.

“The opioids and synthetic drugs were racking his body,” Mrs. Atkinson said. Dan passed away in 2017. I can’t help but think that if we lived in another state he could have lived to see his son graduate from Auburn and join the Space Force.

Captain Clay Hammac commands the Shelby County Drug Task Force

“Just because we do not put medical in front of marijuana does not make it medicine,” Capt. Hammac said. Under Alabama law, we already have Leni’s law and Carly’s law and there are cannabis-based medications that have been approved by the FDA.

Hammac warned that this was an “Incremental step toward the decriminalization of a multi-$billion industry. This bill should be before the Health Committee instead of the Judiciary Committee.”

“Law enforcement was never invited to the table to share our experience,” Hammac said of the Alabama Medical Cannabis Study Commission.

“A Harvard medical researcher was brought to the commission and virtually laughed out of the room,” Hammac said. “I stand with our Attorney General.”

Hammac blast the “casual way” that this has been handled.

“The reason this is before the Judiciary Committee instead of the Health Committee is that this is the most deliberative thorough committee in state government today,” Judiciary Committee Chairman Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) said. “That nature of the people on this Committee is why this is here.”

“The State has no authority to usurp federal law,” Hammac said.

“I want to make sure that everybody understands where I come from,” Dustin Chandler said. “My daughter Carly obtained CBD oil through Carly’s Law. My daughter was able to get relief through the CBD oil. Studies show that medical cannabis has medical benefits for many people.”

Lori Herring said, “I have been a nurse for 30 years.”

Herring said that the American Academy on Pediatrics opposes the legalization of cannabis. The American Medical Association does not endorse medical cannabis. The Multiple Sclerosis Society can not recommend cannabis as a treatment.

“The side effects, system effects, and long term side effects are not clear,” Herring said. “It has not been shown to be medically effective and could be dangerous. “It has only been approved for two severe forms of epilepsy. We don’t know what a pediatric dose, an adult dose, or a geriatric dose would be.”

Herring warned that marijuana can cause nausea and vomiting unrelieved by current nausea medication and has resulted in death. Legalization has led to increased emergency room visits, paranoia, schizophrenia, and psychotic breaks.

“The marijuana today is more addictive than marijuana in the past,” Herring said. “Legislators should not be taking the place of scientists.”

Dr. Alan Shackelford of Colorado said, “I have seen 25,000 patients in my practice in the last ten years. I doubt you will find anybody who has as much experience with patients than I do.”

Shackelford said that Marylin was a helicopters pilot in Iraq who was shot down and had severe injuries and PTSD did not have a job rarely left her house and now has a job at the VA helping other veterans and is married

Shackleford said that Mason is age 68 and has Parkinson’s. He could not move now he plays baseball and is a deacon in his church. He also said that he treated Charlotte, a girl with Dravet Syndrome with tremendous effect and now she is a healthy twelve-year-old.

“Not all of them are as dramatic as these,” Dr. Shackelford said. Arthritis, autism, PTSD, cancer, pain, Parkinson’s, chemotherapy-related nausea can all be treated with cannabis.

“The people of Alabama deserve the same access to treatment as people in 33 other states,” Dr. Shackelford concluded.

“A number of amendments have been worked out in the last couple of weeks,” Ward said.

The amendments were added and Ward advised Melson to incorporate all the amendments into a substitute to introduce when the bill is on the Senate floor.

The most notable amendment dealt with workmen’s compensation. An employee who is injured or killed on the job is ineligible to receive compensation if his death or injury was due to the employee’s impairment under medical cannabis.

SB167 received a favorable report on an eight to one vote.

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Opinion | Alabama close to allowing hot dogs to be rescued

Joey Kennedy

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Most readers know that we’ve had a grumble of pugs for years. We lost four in the grumble last year. All of our dogs are rescues, and most of them have some disability: unable to walk well, blindness, incontinence, a perpetually crooked head.

And most of the pugs are elderly, so we expect to lose a few this year. Our youngest is Nellie Bly, at about 2 years old. We have a group of older pugs that are around 10-11 years old. Several came from puppy mills. One was surrendered to a vet tech when his owners took him to be put down because the owner’s granddaughter wanted a different dog (I know!). The veterinarian naturally was not going to euthanize a healthy animal, and about a week later, Peerey came to us.

Pugs are bred to do one thing: Sit with their humans, mostly on their laps or next to them on the bed. All of ours are bed pugs. They snore; we adore.

I say all of this to underscore that Veronica and I know not ever to leave one of our dogs in a locked car, especially during the summer. But every year, we hear stories of the careless owners who leave their dog (or dogs) in the backseat of a vehicle while they run an errand. The errand takes longer than the owner thought, and heat builds in the car. Too often, that kills the pet, just like it does children, and that happens all too often as well.

As of 2019, 31 states had laws that either prohibit leaving an animal confined in a vehicle under dangerous conditions or provide civil immunity (protection from being sued) for a person who rescues a distressed animal from a vehicle.

Alabama – finally – is on the cusp of joining that group.

A bill (SB67) sponsored by Sen. Jimmy Holley, R-Elba, will allow good Samaritans to rescue pets left in a car if they are clearly in danger from either the heat or cold. The bill provides criminal immunity to civilians and grants civil and criminal immunity to law enforcement officers who rescue an animal.

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Important, too, is that bill prevents owners from leaving their animals in a vehicle in a manner that creates an unreasonable risk of harm. If they do, they can be charged with second-degree animal abuse.

It doesn’t take long for the situation in a vehicle to deteriorate, either. 

Even on a mild day, the heat inside a car can go off the rails. According to reports, if the outside temperature is 70 degrees (f), the interior of a vehicle can heat up to 89 degrees in 10 minutes. After a half-hour, the interior temp can be 104 degrees. Of course, it’s much worse on hotter days.

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At 80 degrees, a vehicles inside temperature is at 99 degrees; after a half-hour, the animal is trying to survive in a 114-degree oven. And at 95 degrees, not an unusual June, July, or August temperature in Alabama, the inside temp of a vehicle is about 130 degrees.

Humans can’t even survive long at those temperatures.

There are conditions before a good Samaritan can step up, but they’re not unusual in states that already have similar laws: Among them:

The person has a good faith belief that the confined domestic animal is in imminent danger of suffering physical injury or death unless the domestic animal is removed from the motor vehicle;
The person determines that the motor vehicle is locked or there is no reasonable manner in which the person can remove the domestic animal from the vehicle;
Before entering the motor vehicle, the person notifies a peace officer, emergency medical service provider or first responder or an animal control enforcement agency or deputy of the confined domestic animal;
The person does not use more force than is necessary under the circumstances to enter the motor vehicle and remove the domestic animal from the vehicle.
Remains with the animal in a safe location in reasonable proximity to the motor vehicle until law enforcement or other first responders arrive.
Maintains control of the animal at all times to prevent harm to the animal or others.

There are other conditions that make less sense, however. The bill as passed 33-0 by the state Senate requires the ambient temperature in the vehicle be 99 degrees or higher before a citizen or first-responder can intervene.

I can tell you that a half-hour in a car at 95 degrees will kill a pug; a Lab or Golden might survive that temperature for awhile, but remember, every minute the car’s interior is getting hotter. Pugs are brachycephalic – short nosed – and have trouble breathing outside at 80 or 85 degrees.

Other short-nosed breeds like English Bulldogs, French Bulldogs, and Boston Terriers, have the same issue. It’s one reason why they snort and snore, even in the winter.

Generally, we can tell when a dog locked in a car is distressed, and few good Samaritans are going to be carrying a temperature gauge with them.

Still, the House needs to pass this bill as soon as possible. Spring and summer aren’t that far off, and, no doubt, there will be animals to rescue.

Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column every week for Alabama Political Reporter.

Email: [email protected]

 

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