During her annual State of the State address to a packed joint session of the Alabama legislature in the Old House Chambers of the historic state Capital building, Gov. Kay Ivey urged lawmakers to deal with the problems that have long plagued the state’s prison system.
“After becoming your governor in April 2017, I realized that our great state had ignored too many problems for far too long,” Ivey said. “We had put Band-Aids and duct tape on old ideas, old roads and bridges, and tired old prisons long enough.”
Alabama’s prisons are overcrowded, understaffed, dangerous, have a poor track record of rehabilitation, have long neglected maintenance and modernization issues, and have not provided adequate healthcare and mental health services.
“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,” Ivey said. “We simply cannot afford to wait any longer to tackle this problem… and failure is not an option.”
Ivey said lawmakers made good progress during the last session to address the issue of understaffing, but more needs to be done.
“I’m pleased to report that our recruiting and retention efforts are improving and moving in the right direction,” she said. “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.”
“Currently, work is well underway in addressing our antiquated and crumbling prison infrastructure,” Ivey said. “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.”
Ivey said that ADOC Commissioner Jeff Dunn is “Spearheading 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 Ladies and gentlemen, Alabama has no choice but to reinvent our corrections system by replacing outdated and unsafe facilities that pose a great risk to public safety – and inhibit development of programs for inmate rehabilitation.”
Ivey said that the Community College System is providing educational, technical and workforce training to aid in successful reentry. “ Ingram State, where I also visited recently, is the only postsecondary institution in the country that exclusively serves the incarcerated population.”
Ivey introduced Brandie McCain, a former prisoner who has 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 and now works at Wright Way Staffing in Fairfield, where she quickly moved up the ranks to become an office administrator and staff recruiter.
Gov. Ivey gave the speech in a sling after tripping over the First Dog at the Governor’s mansion last week.
“As you can see, I’m working with one arm – not tied behind my back – just tied up!” Ivey said. “But, as I always say, there’s no step too high for a high stepper! I’ll be fine.”
“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,” Ivey said. “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.”
Governor Ivey has been meeting with the Bipartisan Leadership of both the House and Senate.
“Unlike what we’ve seen nationally, I knew that no one party has a monopoly on good ideas,” Ivey explained. “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.” “A prime example of the benefit of working together was Rebuild Alabama.”
“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,” Ivey said. “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.”
Ivey also addressed education.
“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,” Ivey said. “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.”
“This isn’t the fault of our hard-working teachers, principals or local superintendents…Folks, it starts at the top,” Ivey said. “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.” “It’s time to vote YES for Amendment One on March 3rd!”
“We all know that a world-class workforce begins with a world-class education system,” Ivey said. “My education budget that I am proposing will provide an additional $25 million dollars to expand our nationally-recognized First Class Pre-K program.”
Ivey said that this will expand the program by another 193 classrooms.
Ivey proposed creating a $1 billion-dollar public school and college bond issue for K-12 education, as well as for our two- and four-year colleges and universities to allow for capital improvements across the state.
Ivey proposed a three percent pay raise for all teachers: pre-k through community college.
Ivey stated that she has a goal of adding 500,000 employees with post-secondary credentials by 2025.
Ivey also called on the 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,” Ivey said. “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.”
Ivey thanked Department of Human Resources Commissioner Nancy Buckner for leading the nation two years in a row in placing foster children in permanent homes.
“As we all know, 2019 was an especially difficult year for those who wear a badge,” Ivey said. “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.”
Mrs. Joanne Williams, the widow of Lowndes County Sheriff Big John Williams was a special guest of the governor.
Ivey said that increasing the number of highway patrol officers has been a top focus of her administration.
“We have increased the number of Troopers from 365 to 435, a net increase of 19 percent!” Ivey said. “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.”
Ivey urged every citizen to participate in the 2020 Census.
“It is ever so important for every Alabamian to join me in saying “I Count” by completing a census form!” Ivey stated.
Ivey said that access to broadband; is another top priority to continue increasing the availability of high-speed Internet throughout the state, especially in rural Alabama.
“Currently, some 220,000 Alabamians do not have any wired Internet providers where they live,” Ivey stated. “Our efforts will not end until every Alabamian has access through high speed broadband.”
Ivey said that her budget will make a substantial investment in the area of health care… both rural health and mental health as well including a pilot program to incentivize primary care physicians and nurse practitioners to establish services in medically underserved areas.
Ivey asked for 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,” Ivey continued.
Ivey said that the Mental Health Department is partnering with the Department of Education to ensure we are promoting “Whole Child Wellness.”
Ivey said that the state has the best economy our state has ever had.
“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,” Ivey stated. “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.” “And fewer people are living in poverty than ever before.”
Ivey also discussed gaming, announcing that she will sign an executive order to establish a small working group to begin working, to gather all the facts on if some form of gaming expansion occurred.
Ivey said that she and her working group will bring the facts to the 140 members of the Legislature and the people of Alabama.
“My pledge would be for the people of Alabama to have the final say,” Ivey said. “But first, we must get the facts and understand what they mean.”
“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!” Ivey stated.
Coronavirus task force’s Dr. Deborah Birx says Alabama should extend statewide mask order
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.
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.
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!”
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.
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.”
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.
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.
1 PM CDT 9/14 #Sally Update: Hurricane #Sally continues meandering over the north-central Gulf of Mexico. Additional strengthening is forecast during the next day or so before it makes landfall along the north-central Gulf Coast on Tue or Tue night. https://t.co/tW4KeFW0gB pic.twitter.com/8oPmhptnIV
— National Hurricane Center (@NHC_Atlantic) September 14, 2020
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.