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Governor

Alabama Republicans praise Ivey’s State of the State speech

Brandon Moseley

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Tuesday, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R) laid out an ambitious agenda in her annual State of the State Address that includes: building three new prisons, a three percent teacher pay raise, a two percent state employee pay raise, mental health crisis centers, broadband expansion, hiring more state troopers, workforce development, a governor’s study group on gaming, and a “Yes” vote on Amendment One. Alabama Republicans praised Gov. Ivey’s speech.

“This evening Governor Ivey demonstrated why she is ranked one of the top-10 approval rated governors in the nation,” Alabama Republican Party Chairman Terry Lathan said. “The state of our state is strong, thanks to her focused leadership. The results are solid. With an unemployment rate of 2.7% – the lowest in our state’s 200 year history and among the lowest in the nation – and 77,000 new jobs created in last year alone, Alabama’s economy shows no signs of slowing down. This has enabled the Ivey administration to add much needed services and personnel to help our citizens, including a 17% increase in State Troopers on our roadways, job training programs and increasing rural broadband access.”

“Governor Ivey will continue to move our great state forward in the new year, creating a brighter tomorrow for Alabamians and their children,” Lathan predicted. “Not only did she pledge to build on her past successes – with pay raises for our educators and public employees – but is also introducing new initiatives including the one billion dollar public school and college authority, a major investment in our schools. This is in addition to our education budget, the largest in state history, and will help enhance and expand our number one rated pre-k program, among others. Heralding another record breaking year of adoptions is something for all of us to celebrate. We are reminded there has been no proration since the Republicans took over the legislature in 2010. Alabama is starting off our next 100 years in incredible shape and with Governor Ivey steadying our state, it will only keep getting better. Alabama does not back away from high steps.”

Economic developer Dr. Nicole Jones attended and shared, “A refreshing theme resonated in the Old House Chamber – Alabama’s business climate is strong and unprecedented. Economic development is a team effort, and our Governor has worked with the business community, elected officials, and constituents to facilitate this environment. Economic development requires partnerships, strategic planning, and investment in our future. If we continue following these principles, we will continue to witness success stories in Alabama. Governor Ivey also expressed a willingness to tackle tough problems that other parties have not had the political courage to do so. I commend the governor and her efforts to address rural healthcare, prison reform, and education.”

“Tonight, Governor Ivey laid out a vision for Alabama that will move our state forward into this new decade. Her vision is strong and will position Alabama to continue being a leader in economic development and job creation,” said Alabama Policy Institute President Caleb Crosby. “Governor Ivey showed she is not afraid to tackle our problems and I stand ready to work with her as we address prison overcrowding and the need to press the restart button on our state’s education system.”

“Alabama has an opportunity to set the stage for the nation by being a leader in reducing burdensome taxes and regulations on families and businesses,” Crosby continued. “We can start by eliminating the grocery tax and reforming occupational licensing. Now is the time to lead the way in expanding access to school choice and give our children the best chance possible to succeed. A child’s future must not be determined by her zip code.”

Former state representative Perry O. Hooper Jr. (R-Montgomery) said, “Governor Ivey did a great job in pointing out that we made tremendous progress in the last legislative session by working together in a bipartisan manner. If we continue this bipartisan mindset on working for what is good for Alabama, our third century can be our best. As it has always been, Governor Ivey emphasized her commitment to education by proposing a pay raise for teachers, additional capital spending and more funding for education programs that work. She did not forget state workers proposing a pay raise for them also. She proposed a pilot program for incentivizing health care workers to work in underserved rural areas. She addressed the 800-pound gorilla in the room, the myriad of issues within our corrections system. As she has always stated “The prison system problems must be addressed with Alabama solutions” not mandates from Washington. She emphasized after decades of neglect; new construction is mandatory. The speech was a shining example of Governor Ivey’s vision for the state under her quiet decisive leadership. I have no doubt that Governor Ivey will get it done.”

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Ivey did not mention medical marijuana in her speech, one of the most controversial topics facing the legislature in 2020.

“However, not all legislation being considered is helpful; we must be careful to avoid the creation of uncontrollable government bureaucracy like that being considered in the current medical marijuana proposal,” Crosby warned. “Alabama is the most conservative state in the nation; our policies and the bills passed by our legislature and signed by the governor should reflect that.”

A number of legislators have gambling proposals: a paper lottery, a compact with the Poarch Creek Band of Indians, video lottery terminals at the dog tracks, legalized sports wagering, new casinos in Birmingham and Huntsville, etc. Ivey asked the legislators to put those proposals aside and wait for her appointed working group to research the issue and come back with a recommendation for the state. Ivey said that she wanted the people to ultimately decide the issue.

“The Alabama Policy Institute will work with Governor Ivey and the members of the legislature to reduce government intrusion, control spending, and implement free-market, freedom-driven solutions,” Crosby concluded.

Day two of the 2020 legislative session will be on Thursday.

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Courts

Lawsuit claims governor ignored nomination process to appoint probate judge

Micah Danney

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James "Jim" Naftel II

A lawsuit filed Wednesday is challenging Gov. Kay Ivey’s appointment of Birmingham attorney James “Jim” Naftel II as Jefferson County probate judge place 1.

The suit, filed the day Ivey announced the appointment, alleges she circumvented the Jefferson County Judicial Commission’s nominating process. She should have selected an appointee from a list of three nominees provided by the commission as the state’s Constitution requires, the suit says.

“Because Judge Naftel was not lawfully or properly appointed as Probate Judge of Jefferson County, he is currently usurping, intruding, and unlawfully holding that office,” the suit alleges.

Ivey’s office said she disagrees with the suit’s interpretation of the law. 

“The state constitution gives the governor the authority to fill this vacancy,” said Gina Maiola, Ivey’s press secretary. “Judge Naftel is highly qualified to serve as probate judge, and the governor looks forward to his many years of excellent public service to the people of Jefferson County and the state as a whole.”

Barry Ragsdale, an attorney with the firm Sirote & Permutt, P.C., said that he has no issue with who Ivey chose, only how she did it.

“I frankly have nothing but respect for Judge Naftel,” Ragsdale said. “I think he’ll make a great probate judge. I think he’s going to end up being the probate judge, but it’s about protecting a process that we’ve had in Jefferson County for 70 years.”

Jefferson County was the first of six counties to create such a commission. It originally applied only to Jefferson County Circuit Court, but that was expanded in 1973 to include any judicial office, the suit says — including probate judges. 

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Ragsdale said it is important because the process is meant to provide local input into whom potential judges are. Commissioners are local citizens who likely know the people they nominate, whereas a governor probably doesn’t. 

“That takes most of the politics out of it,” Ragsdale said. He noted that before the first commission was created in 1950, George Wallace appointed his relatives to the bench when vacancies opened. A local screening process prevents that, Ragsdale said.

“We have that, we fought for it, and we fought governors for decades to follow the process,” he said.

Ragsdale believes this is a case of a governor simply wanting to exercise power, he said.

“She’s absolutely wrong about what the law says, and we intend to prove that,” Ragland said.

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Economy

Ivey announces SiO2’s $163 million expansion in Auburn

Brandon Moseley

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Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey announced Wednesday that SiO2 Materials Science plans to invest $163 million in an expansion at its Auburn facility.

The announcement came just after securing a major contract to supply the federal government with vials to support the COVID-19 vaccine effort if and when an effective vaccine is developed. The project will create 220 jobs.

“It is exciting to know that SiO2 will be directly involved in providing a product essential to addressing the COVID-19 crisis, which will impact not only Alabamians but the entire country,” Ivey said. “This is a testament to the ingenuity of this great company and its growing Alabama workforce.”

Economic developer Nicole Jones told the Alabama Political Reporter, “Vials produced by SiO2 Materials Science may be the critical component needed to ensure safety in the vaccine distribution process. The breakthrough technology developed by the Auburn-based company provides a glimmer of hope amidst challenging times and showcases how Alabamians are working diligently to craft solutions that will assist our nation and the world in the fight against COVID-19. In addition, the 220 new, high-skilled jobs housed in Auburn Technology Park West will bring economic benefits to Lee County as well as the entire state of Alabama.”

The expansion will allow SiO2 to increase its production capacity so that it can meet the expected demand for vials and syringes when a coronavirus vaccine is finally approved for mass use.

In June, SiO2 announced an $143 million contract with federal government agencies for a production scale-up of the company’s state-of-the-art packaging platform for storing novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) vaccines and therapeutics.

Bobby Abrams is the CEO of SiO2.

“The pandemic presents an enormous challenge for all people,” Abrams said. “We are extremely grateful for Senator Shelby’s steadfast support and assistance, and we’re honored to collaborate with our government so a COVID-19 vaccine can be safely and quickly distributed. The State of Alabama and the City of Auburn for many years have been very supportive of SiO2 Materials Science during its research, development, commercialization, and now scale-up phases of the company.”

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Over the last 10 years, SiO2 has developed its patented vial platform, which combines a plastic container with a microscopic, pure glass coating on the inside that is ideal for biological drugs and vaccines. The product, developed in Auburn with help from experts from four major U.S. research institutions, combines the benefits of both glass and plastic without drawbacks.

“There are problems with plastic, and there are problems with glass, and we resolve all of them,” Abrams said.

SiO2 will expand its existing facility at 2250 Riley Street and will invest in a new molding facility at 2425 Innovation Drive, both located in the Auburn Technology Park West.

Construction is already under way to expand the facility on Innovation Drive. The completed approximately 70,000-square-foot facility will increase the production capacity of SiO2’s injection molding operation.

“We’re proud to have some of the world’s leading scientists and product developers working in our community,” Auburn Mayor Ron Anders said. “With the presence of these companies and Auburn University’s outstanding medical and engineering programs, we believe we’ll see significant growth in the biotech industry right here in Auburn. On top of that, the well-paying jobs created through this project will result in significant economic opportunities for our local businesses.”

Greg Canfield, the secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce, said that SiO2’s expansion project in Auburn will help ensure that the nation’s health authorities have an ample supply of vials and syringes to administer a vaccine for COVID-19 as soon as it is developed.

“Having a steady supply of SiO2’s innovative vials will represent a key strategic advantage for federal agencies wanting to act rapidly once a vaccine is available to counter the coronavirus,” Canfield said.

Robert S. Langer is a professor at the David H. Koch Institute at MIT and a company adviser.

A key element of SiO2’s product is enhanced safety for healthcare providers and for patients, who are at a lower risk of adverse side effects. A combination of plastic and a microscopic layer of glass also means vials and syringes won’t break, shatter or crack. SiO2 ships its products worldwide.

“Many drug development and drug formulation innovations can be limited due to variables associated with traditional glass vials and syringes,” Langer said. “The SiO2 vials and syringes eliminate these variables and allow drug development partners to bring their innovations to life.”

SiO2 is a privately-owned company based in Auburn, where it has around 200 employees. The Retirement Systems of Alabama provided early financial support for the company.

517,464 people have already died from the COVID-19 global pandemic, including 130,602 Americans.

 

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Governor

Governor appoints Barbara Cooper as secretary of Department of Early Childhood Education

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Gov. Kay Ivey on Wednesday announced the appointment of Barbara Cooper as secretary of the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education.

“Dr. Barbara Cooper has spent her professional career dedicated to helping students achieve their greatest potential. She and I share the same goal, and that is to make Alabama a better place, which begins with our youngest citizens,” Ivey said. “With her vast experience in various administrative positions, Dr. Cooper is more than qualified, and I have no doubt that she will continue the impressive work of the Department of Early Childhood Education. I am confident that Alabama will continue leading the nation with the best early childhood education system.”

Cooper has over 30 years of education experience and most recently served in DECE since 2018. She previously served as the department’s director of the Office of School Readiness and the Birth to Grade 12 advisor for the Alabama Governor’s Office of Education and Workforce Transformation.

She was appointed by the Alabama State Board of Education to serve as the chief administrative officer during the Montgomery Public Schools Intervention where she worked to improve leadership and governance.

Cooper is currently in the process of earning a certificate in Early Education Leadership from Harvard University Graduate School of Education.

She also received a Ph.D. in Education Leadership and Innovation and a Master of Science in Administration, Supervision & Curriculum Development from the University of Colorado at Denver and a Bachelor of Science in Education from Western Illinois University.

“Education is the greatest profession and the work we do in our calling as educators will last beyond our lifetime,” Cooper said. “I look forward to serving Alabama’s children and families for many years to come. I appreciate Governor Ivey’s confidence in selecting me to serve in this new capacity and I look forward to hitting the ground running.”

Cooper’s administrative experience is vast as she has served as Deputy State Superintendent/Chief Academic Officer of the Alabama State Department of Education, Deputy Superintendent of Huntsville City Schools, Chief Equity and Engagement Officer of Aurora Public Schools (Colorado) and a Principal with Denver Public Schools. She has teaching experience ranging from elementary to teacher instruction.

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The governor’s appointment is effective immediately.

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Governor

Governor appoints Jim Naftel as Jefferson County probate judge

Eddie Burkhalter

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Gov. Kay Ivey on Wednesday appointed Birmingham attorney James “Jim” Naftel II as Jefferson County probate judge place 1.

Ivey spoke to Naftel Wednesday afternoon to inform him of her decision, according to a press release from Ivey’s office. 

“As one of my appointees, you will be making important decisions that directly affect the citizens of Alabama. I have made honesty and integrity a priority in my Administration, and I know that you will embody these two virtues while serving the people of Alabama,” Ivey wrote in a letter to Naftel on Wednesday. 

Naftel will replace Jefferson County Probate Judge Alan King, who was first elected to the judgeship in November 2000, and who retired in May after 19 years of service. King’s wife was killed just more than a year before his retirement in a hit-and-run in Denver. 

Naftel has been an attorney with the law firm Maynard, Cooper & Gale, P.C. since 1998, and is a 1998 graduate of the University of Alabama School of Law.

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