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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.”

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“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.”

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.”

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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.

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with eight and a half years at Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook. Brandon is a native of Moody, Alabama, a graduate of Auburn University, and a seventh generation Alabamian.

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Economy

Governor announces $200 million “Revive Plus” small business grant program

Revive Plus is the second wave of funding for organizations with 50 or fewer employees and will award grants of up to $20,000 for expenses.

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Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (VIA GOVERNOR'S OFFICE)

Gov. Kay Ivey on Wednesday announced Revive Plus, a $200 million grant program to support small businesses, non-profits and faith-based organizations in Alabama that have been impacted by COVID-19. Revive Plus is the second wave of funding for these organizations with 50 or fewer employees and will award grants of up to $20,000 for expenses they have incurred due to operational interruptions caused by the pandemic and related business closures.

“As the state has rolled out over $1 billion of the CARES Act monies to the individuals and businesses affected by COVID-19, it became evident the group most overwhelmingly hurt during the pandemic were the small ‘mom and pop’ shops,” Ivey said. “A second round of assistance through Revive Plus will ensure that the small business owners who have borne the brunt of the downed economy can be made as whole as possible. As we head into the holiday season, my hope is that this will be welcome news for our businesses and help ease their burdens from what has been a very hard year.”

Entities may receive up to $20,000 to reimburse qualifying expenses if they have not received federal assistance for the corresponding item they are claiming with the state of Alabama. The Revive Plus grant is in addition to any state of Alabama Coronavirus Relief Fund grant previously received, including the Revive Alabama Small Business, Non-Profit, Faith-Based, and Health Care Provider grants. There is no set cap on the number of entities that may be awarded a Revive Plus Grant. Grants will be awarded to qualifying applicants on a first-come, first-served basis until the funds are exhausted.

“The Revive Plus program is much needed in our small business economy,” said Senate General Fund Chairman Greg Albritton, R-Atmore. “I commend Governor Ivey for taking this action, recapturing unspent dollars and using a proven program to bring economic relief to our small business owners.”

Alabama received approximately $1.9 billion of CARES Act funding to respond to and mitigate the coronavirus pandemic. Alabama Act 2020-199 initially designated up to $300 million of the Coronavirus Relief Fund for individuals, businesses, non-profit and faith-based organizations directly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. After the initial $100 million for small business that was reimbursed starting in July 2020, legislative leadership approved a second round of $200 million from allocations made to reimburse state government and from other grant programs that have ended with the full allocation unspent.

“This second round of funding for Alabama entities will provide much needed resources for our state’s economy,” said Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro. “I appreciate the governor and the Finance Department’s work to ensure we utilize these funds to the benefit of our citizens.”

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Entities may access grant information and the grant application through the Coronavirus Relief Fund website. The application period for the Revive Plus Grant Program will open at noon, Nov. 23, 2020 and run through noon, Dec. 4, 2020.

“This is welcome news for small businesses, non-profits and faith-based organizations that are continuing to feel the adverse effects of the Covid-19 virus,” said House General Fund Chairman Steve Clouse, R-Ozark. “Time is of the essence and I urge all qualified entities to apply as soon as possible beginning Monday, November 23rd.”

A coalition of the Business Council of Alabama, the National Federation of Independent Business of Alabama (NFIB Alabama) and the Alabama Restaurant Association worked closely with the governor’s office to revisit the grant program after the initial round of Revive Alabama reached the $100 million cap.

“Businesses throughout the state are working diligently to keep their employees and customers safe, all while ensuring commerce throughout Alabama continues to move,” said Business Council of Alabama President and CEO Katie Britt. “Revive Plus will be essential in giving Alabama businesses access to the necessary and needed funding to keep their doors open and keep hard working Alabamians employed. Our broad coalition of businesses, associations and chambers commend Governor Ivey and her administration for putting these critical funds into the hands of businesses who need it most.”

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Qualifying entities must have been in business March 1, 2020, are currently in business and have a valid W-9 to apply for a Revive Plus Grant.

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Governor

Governor meets with VIP fourth grader

The discussion was described as “wide-ranging and productive.” The governor and McGriff covered everything from school to their love of dogs.

Brandon Moseley

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Gov. Kay Ivey and fourth grade student Cate McGriff. (GOVERNOR'S OFFICE PHOTO)

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey invited a special guest to meet with her in the governor’s office on Friday: fourth grade student Cate McGriff, known for her impeccable impersonation of the governor.

The discussion was described as “wide-ranging and productive.” The governor and McGriff covered everything from school to their love of dogs.

Ivey asked McGriff what her favorite subject in school is, the governor’s office said. McGriff replied that it was math. She also told the governor that she wanted to attend Auburn University just like Ivey did.

Ivey asked Cate what she wanted to be when she grows up after she attends Auburn. McGriff said that she wants to be an engineer.

Ivey advised her to keep working hard on her math.

Gov. Kay Ivey and fourth grade student Cate McGriff. (GOVERNOR’S OFFICE PHOTO)

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Ivey shared that when she was a young intern for Gov. Lurleen Wallace, the only other woman to serve as governor in Alabama history, she had the opportunity to sit behind the governor’s desk. Ivey then asked Cate if she wanted to sit behind the desk, and they recreated the governor’s own photo behind Gov. Lurleen Wallace’s desk.

Cate and Ivey both were wearing their red “power suits” and Auburn face masks.

McGriff was joined by her parents and two siblings, Claire and Sam.

The McGriff family frequently tune in to the governor’s regular COVID press conferences. Cate also was given the chance to stand behind the lectern in the Old House Chamber.

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Governors frequently meet with very important people including presidents, CEOs, congressmen, senators, scientists, university presidents, state legislators, county commissioners, economic developers and fourth graders.

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Economy

Governor announces auto supplier IAC plans Alabama expansion

IAC is committing $34.3 million in new capital investment to expand its new manufacturing facility located in Tuscaloosa County.

Brandon Moseley

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Gov. Kay Ivey announced Monday that International Automotive Components Group North America Inc. plans to invest over $55.9 million in expansion projects that will create 182 jobs at two Alabama facilities.

“International Automotive Components is a leading global auto supplier, and I am pleased that this world-class company is growing significantly in Alabama and creating good jobs in Cottondale and Anniston,” Ivey said. “IAC’s growth plans show that Alabama’s dynamic auto industry continues to expand despite today’s challenging environment.”

Nick Skwiat is the executive vice president and president of IAC North America.

“Alabama was the logical choice due to its skilled workforce and proximity to the customer,” Skwiat said. “We are excited to see the continued growth of the automotive industry in Alabama and we plan to grow right along with it. We thank the Governor and Secretary Canfield for their leadership in this sector.”

IAC is committing $34.3 million in new capital investment to expand its new manufacturing facility located in Tuscaloosa County. This facility will produce door panels and overhead systems for original equipment manufacturers. That project will create 119 jobs at the production site in Cottondale.

IAC also plans to invest $21.6 million at its manufacturing facility located in the former Fort McClellan in Anniston. That East Alabama project will create another 63 jobs.

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This project builds on a milestone 2014 expansion that doubled the size of the Calhoun County facility. There IAC manufactures automotive interior components and systems. Key components produced at the Anniston plant include door panels, trim systems and instrument panels for original equipment manufacturers.

IAC Group is a leading global supplier of innovative and sustainable instrument panels, consoles, door panels, overhead systems, bumper fascias and exterior ornamentation for original equipment manufacturers.

IAC is headquartered in Luxembourg and has more than 18,000 employees at 67 locations in 17 countries. The company operates manufacturing facilities in eight U.S. states.

“With operations around the globe, IAC is the kind of high-performance company that we want in Alabama’s auto supply chain to help fuel sustainable growth,” said Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield. “We look forward to working with IAC and facilitating its future growth in this strategic industrial sector.”

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Danielle Winningham is the executive director of the Tuscaloosa County Industrial Development Authority.

“International Automotive Components is a valued part of Tuscaloosa County’s automotive sector,” Winningham said. “We are grateful for IAC’s investment in our community and the career opportunities available to our area workforce as a result of their investment.”

“The City of Anniston is excited that IAC has made the decision to expand here. I have enjoyed working with the leadership at IAC, the Calhoun County EDC, and the state of Alabama to get this project finalized,” said Anniston Mayor Jack Draper. “This is even further evidence that Anniston is indeed open for business.”

Only Michigan has more automobile manufacturing jobs than the state of Alabama. Honda, Mercedes, Hyundai, Polaris, Toyota and soon Mazda all have major automobile assembly plants in the state of Alabama.

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Opinion | Prisons, justice reform and the art of the possible

Politics is bound by the art of what’s possible. It is also true that those who never dare the impossible rarely achieve even the possible.

Bill Britt

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For years, prison reform advocates, media outlets and even a few public officials have called for new correctional facilities to address Alabama’s dangerously overcrowded prisons.

Now that it’s happening, some aren’t happy with how Gov. Kay Ivey is addressing the problem.

Is the Ivey Administration’s plan perfect? No. But building new facilities along with criminal justice reform — while all imperfect — is the last best hope to correct generations of cruel treatment, endangered correctional officers and corrupt practices.

German chancellor and statesman Otto von Bismarck said “Politics is the art of the possible, the attainable — the art of the next best,” this is the state of a workable solution to Alabama’s prison needs and criminal justice reform.

Yet, there is a concerted effort underway to stop the Ivey Administration from acquiring three new men’s prisons under a build-lease agreement.

Some lawmakers want another crack at financing additional facilities through a bond issue, and others want more say in the process. Still, the fact is that Ivey’s actions are the result of decades of legislative indifference and inaction to adequately address the appalling conditions at Alabama’s correctional facilities.

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Even some advocates are working against the prison plan and while their intentions may be good it seem to their hand wringing is almost as disingenuous as lawmakers whining.

What’s worse are those who spread disinformation to discredit process.

Many good people have worked hard to bring about an end to the state’s barbaric prison system and unfair justice, but lately it seems there is an outright movement to derail much needed change— simply because it’s not enough. As the saying goes, “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

There have been so many false claims and sly manipulations of facts about the prison plan as to make even a hardened journalist want to cry “fake news.”

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But as for Ivey, frankly, my dears, I don’t think she gives a damn.

Here’s the hard truth. The Ivey Administration is building three new men’s prisons, and nothing will stop it. The fact is that three prisons are not enough; the administration should move forward to build a new women’s facility as soon as practicable.

Politics is bound by the art of what’s possible. It is also true that those who never dare the impossible rarely achieve even the possible.

Failing to recognize when the once impossible is coming to fruition is a sad reality. Still, in politics, as in life, good things happen while most people are navel-gazing or complaining.

Having visited three state prisons, St. Clair, Elmore, and Tutwiler, I can say without a doubt, the conditions in those places are a living hell.

A report from the U.S. Department of Justice released in April 2019, found “reasonable cause to believe that Alabama fails to provide constitutionally adequate conditions and that prisoners experience serious harm, including deadly harm, as a result.”

DOJ’s investigation revealed that prisoners were susceptible to “an enormous breath” of sexual abuse and assault but other types of violence as well, including gruesome murder and beatings that went without intervention.

When the state incarcerates a criminal, it assumes custodial care for that individual. No matter how heinous the crime or foul the person, the state has an obligation to feed, clothe, house and provide essential human services for their care and welfare. Another element is often overlooked; when a person is committed to prison, they lose their freedom, not their humanity. Therefore, under the law, they cannot be subject to cruel and unusual punishment.

Building three new men’s prisons is just the start; it must be accompanied by criminal justice reform.

“We are able to have a serious discussion about prison reform in Alabama because we have a governor who is serious about putting solutions into place,” Ivey’s press secretary Gina Maiola recently told APR. “Prison infrastructure is a key part of the equation, but criminal justice reform is also needed,” Maiola said.

By executive order on July 18, 2019, Ivey established the Study Group on Criminal Justice Policy. The Study Group released its findings on Jan 31, 2020.

The Study Group entered its mission with one pressing question; “What policies and programs can the State of Alabama implement to ensure the long-term sustainability of our prison system without jeopardizing public safety?” according to Supernumerary Associate Supreme Court Justice Champ Lyons, Jr., who led the effort.

In a letter to Ivey on the Study Groups finding, Lyons wrote [T]he challenges facing our prison system are exceedingly complex—ranging from the elimination of contraband weapons and drugs to the recruitment, retention, and training of correctional staff to the size of the inmate population and to the physical condition of an aging and far-flung prison infrastructure.” He further wrote, “But having thought through many of these issues with my Study Group colleagues, especially our legislative members, I can report to you that some meaningful answers to this question are not just possible; they are within our grasp.”

Prisons without justice reform is a hollow victory, and the Ivey Administration is committed to bringing about reasonable reforms.

“Prison infrastructure is a key part of the equation,” said Maiola, “but criminal justice reform is also needed.”

The issues facing Alabama’s prisons and criminal justice system are complex, and generations in the making; therefore, arriving at a universally acceptable solution is not imaginable for the moment if ever. But what once seemed impossible is soon to be realized.

No one gets everything they want, but it’s a great step toward getting what is needed simply because it’s possible.

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