Wednesday, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R) told legislators that there will be no special session prior to August because the state’s budget numbers will not be in before July 15.
The Governor told the legislators in a video conference that all options are on the table on whether or not there will be a special session.
Ivey said that before calling a special session, the Governor and her staff will work with a bipartisan group of legislators to ensure a plan is in place to maximize time in Montgomery and provide transparency to the public. Ivey said that a special session will only address legitimate issues that cannot wait until February 2021. There will be no surprises for anyone.
Some of these issues could be regarding monuments, names on buildings, etc.
“Like so many others throughout the country and around the world, I, too, was shocked and angered by the tragic actions that led to the senseless death of George Floyd last week in Minneapolis,” Ivey said in a statement on June 1. “It is a death that should have never happened, and it is a tragedy for which that too many people, especially African Americans, are all too familiar. Regretfully, the natural anger and frustration of Mr. Floyd’s death has now spread to our state and what started out as peaceful protests in some of our cities yesterday afternoon turned ugly last night. While no state has a richer history than Alabama in terms of using peaceful protests to lead the country – and the world – to positive change, I agree with Alabama native, Congressman John Lewis, who this weekend said ‘rioting, looting and burning is not the way.’
Ivey plans to send a full statement to the legislature.
The Governor has personally reached out to the mayors of Alabama’s 10 largest cities as well as several small towns and is continuing to watch the news as to how local governments are responding.
State Health Office Dr. Scott Harris said that the state has 21,600 confirmed cases of COVID-19 during the last three months.
“Unfortunately, more than 25 percent have occurred within the past two weeks,” Harris said.
Harris said that three hospitals in Montgomery (including Prattville) have reported more inpatients than they ever had. Another hotspot is Morgan County due to the poultry plant in Decatur. That hospital has more than 30 cases either confirmed or under investigation
“As we approach the fourth o July, legislators need to get message out to be safe,” Harris said.
Harris said that many communities are planning celebrations. Communities need to do so in a safe manner: wear masks, use hand sanitation, older population and vulnerable populations should pass up big crowds.
Harris said that they have been 739 deaths in Alabama in the past three months, around half are in nursing homes. More than 40 percent have occurred in the African American population.
Finance Director Kelly Butler said that the state has implemented guidance from the federal government on how to use money from the federal Coronavirus relief fund. The state has sent notification to cities and counties on the 28th of May that they can begin to claim reimbursements. Some have sent in claims, others report that they will. There have been several conference calls and Zoom meetings with different groups to determine what can and cannot be reimbursed.
Butler said that on 3 June there was communication with government agencies that they can be reimbursed. At this time $300 million can go to state government, $200 million for the Department of Corrections, and $10 million for the Alabama court system.
Butler said that work now is concentrated on business, nonprofits, and faith-based groups, which can get about $300 million. Butler said that they are working with the Alabama Department of Revenue to establish a small business grant program modeled from programs in other states on businesses that have been affected by COVID-19. Businesses will be able to fill out a one-page form to be eligible for a grant in the amount of up to $25,000 as compensation for business interruption costs by COVID-19.
Commissioner Jeff Dunn wit the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) also spoke to the group.
Dunn said that as of yesterday at 3:40 pm approximately 75 staff or contractors have contracted COVID-19. Of those 27 have already been cleared to return to duty.
There are COVID-positives in several facilities, but ADOC is paying most attention to Tutwiler correctional facility as well as the state medical facilities that serve Elmore and Frank Lee Community Based Facility/Community Work Center. Within the last 48 hours, several healthcare providers have tested positive. Dunn said that ADOC is working on an augmentation plan to provide emergency, critical, and essential services for inmates out of that location Dunn said 27 inmates have tested positive. 18 of those are active.
Dunn said that ADOC is reviewing CDC guidelines for inmates and that they are on the telephone weekly for updates with counterparts around the country to share information about how to best address the global pandemic.
Dunn said that ADOC is providing medical testing for procedures to ensure they do not go to the hospital with a positive COVID-19 test. ADOCI is transitioning to a new operational environment that recognizes we will not be “normal” any time soon; but we have to get to a point where we can operate services within the prison system. That process and protocols will be conditions-based, not time-based (evaluate on case-by-case basis and ability to deliver medical and mental health services as they open facilities). ADOC has stringent requirements (deep cleanings, hand sanitizer, temperature checks, etc.). Dunn said that it is near impossible to social distance with the overcrowded conditions.
Dunn said that in-house educational services have resumed and are monitored under new programs, including vocational education, visitation, and religious services. It will take ADOC time to adjust based on conditions within the facilities.
Dunn told legislators that they have received proposals from developer teams. ADOC is evaluating the proposals in a two-part process. All the proposals met or exceeded the technical requirements. ADOC is now evaluating the financials of the proposals.
Dunn said that his goal is to offer the opportunity to negotiate contracts for facilities by late-summer.
Dunn said that ADOC is working to obtain the body camera grant from the DOJ. Canine teams will test with correctional supervisors in the fall
ADOC is also working with Ingram State Technical College (ITSC) to provide educational services through electronic means using portable electronic devices for GED work, etc.
House Majority Leader Nathanial Ledbetter (R-Rainsville) asked Commissioner Dunn about the financial evaluations of the proposals What are you looking for?
“ADOC asked developer teams to bid on the technical specifications and financial cost because this is a lease arrangement to provide costs, financial modeling, ability to obtain finances needed for the project.” Dunn said. ADOC will be evaluating the project at the quality required within the affordability level.
Representative Matt Simpson (R-Daphne) asked: Why are the inmates on probation revocation not getting credit/ Local jails are not sending ADOC. People can be sitting in jail for 45 days and not waiting until they get to ADOC to receive credit.
Comm. Dunn said that procedurally under normal conditions the clock would not start until they were in the Alabama Department of Corrections; however, ADOC provided mechanism to which counties can release probationary dumps from their custody and not send to ADOC.
Secretary Fitzgerald Washington with the Alabama Department of Labor (ADOL) said that U.S. unemployment is down approximately one percent from April. Hopefully this is a sign to the road to prosperity again. 12.9 percent is the Alabama unemployment rate. 1.9 million Alabamians are working, this is down 273,000 over the course of the year.
Washington said that he is proud of the staff’s work on countless hours to how people get paid and eligibility questions from employers and employees / diligently clarifying questions. $1.5 million has been paid out for unemployment claims and over 300,000 claims have been made. $34 million has been paid to the self-employed. To date, ADOL has responded to 92 percent of COVID-19-related claims.
Washington said that once applicants file their initial claims, if entered correctly, it will be processed within 15 minutes. If entered incorrectly, the claimant will be initially denied. 80 percent, the vast majority of delays are due to incorrect information on application (SSN, misspellings, incorrect routing numbers, etc.)
Washington said that some employees have not been truthful when filing, knowing it will be financially beneficial to quit and get government aid. In these cases, ADOL has to give employers time to respond (due process).
All claimants need to file weekly certifications. Some people get benefits one week but do not file the weekly requirements. More than 36,000 claims filed as of last week had to call back last week to get issues resolved. Now claimants are getting direct messages to re-certify weekly.
Washington said that direct deposit is the fastest way to receive benefit. ADOL issued debit cards take an additional 5 to 7 days to process.
Washington said that ADOL is on alert for fraud and theft of personal information. Two metro jail inmates were trying to use a false identity to get unemployment benefits for drugs and cigarettes
Washington said that ADOL is continuing to find ways to improve claims by hiring call centers and expanded hours. They have brought back retired employees to help communicate the process and hired a firm to develop user-friendly ways to use tools available on the website – labor.alabama.gov.
Washington said that ADOL is currently receiving over 200,000 calls per day(!) with only 400 people to answer the calls.
Washington thanked Montgomery Mayor Stephen Reed and ASU President Quintin Ross for allowing ADOL to set up at the Cramton Bowl and at ASU stadium.
State School Superintendent Dr. Mackey briefed legislators on the Alabama State Deptment of Education (ALSDE).
“As of 1 June, public schools, private school, colleges, etc. can reopen,” Supt. Mackey said. “Many campuses are working on getting sports practices back. Some opted not to open until this week.”
Mackey said that there has been some pushback as regard to the fall. A virtual school option has ben proposed for public schools. An RFP opened on Monday of this week. There was a meeting yesterday afternoon and responses were all over the map. There are concerns about: costs, proposals different from different vendors. 7 vendors responded to all or part of the RFPs.
Mackey said that there is a team of instructional and technical specialists going through the vendor applications with a focus on K thru 8. We have a limited number of folks that can participate in those classes. We will use federal funds to expand capacity for grades 9 through 12.
There is a proposal out to get coursework for local school systems. Hire teachers and give virtual instruction as requested. ALSDE has asked school administrators to ask parents whether or not they prefer an online option.
Mackey said that Schoology is a statewide learning management system under contract, part of the power school student information system, now expanding because the original purchase did not have a virtual option (new contract negotiated already, will be put into place before the fall).
Mackey said that ALSDE will have a draft to refine to meet needs as best possible. This will be publicly available within about three weeks. We have to wait until the final document to mitigate potential confusion within the community.
Mackey added that as we continue to implement the Alabama Literacy Act, some reading specialists are being moved (voluntarily – have applied) to take positions as personal coaches and reading coaches in high-need areas. We wanted to begin on 1 July, but many will start 1 August so the local positions can be replaced. Folks will work from home and ALSDE will pay travel as they go back and forth to critical need areas.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
Federal judge refuses to temporarily block governor’s mask order
Following the issuing of those orders, the state saw noticeable drops in both COVID-19 positive cases and deaths.
A federal judge on Wednesday denied a petition for a temporary restraining order that would have blocked Gov. Kay Ivey’s statewide mask ordinance and a prohibition on large, non-work gatherings.
U.S District Court Judge Keith Watkins said, essentially, that the plaintiffs in the case had waited too long to file the request. In his order, Watkins said that a key component in determining the necessity of a TRO is “a need for speedy and urgent action to protect a plaintiff’s rights” while the case as a whole works its way through the legal system.
The seven plaintiffs in this case, Watkins noted, didn’t file their complaint until late last month — some five months after the initial ban on large gatherings was issued in May and two months after Ivey, along with State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris, issued the mask ordinance.
The time discrepancy, Watkins said, indicated that there was no “imminent irreparable harm” that could come to the plaintiffs without immediate action.
“Plaintiffs waited an impermissible amount of time to seek … a temporary restraining order,” Watkins wrote.
The lawsuit specifically challenges Ivey’s and Harris’s authority to issue health orders that ban all non-work gatherings of more than 25 people, order certain businesses and houses of worship temporarily closed and require that people in public areas in the state wear facial coverings. The plaintiffs claim the orders violate their constitutional rights, specifically their First, Fifth and 14th Amendment rights.
Following the issuing of those orders, the state saw noticeable drops in both COVID-19 positive cases and deaths. So far, the state has more than 140,000 cases and nearly 2,500 deaths.
The lawsuit will move forward, with attorneys for Ivey and Harris expected to file a motion to dismiss in the coming days.
Former Alabama chief justice Roy Moore is representing the plaintiffs.
Opinion | Gov. Kay Ivey didn’t cave
Ivey stood her ground on Wednesday, refusing to cave to those who want to end the mask order.
Gov. Kay Ivey extended the statewide mandatory mask ordinance on Wednesday despite pressure from her party’s right-wing. Nationally and here in Alabama, many Republicans have complained that any restrictions on their behavior during the COVID-19 outbreak is a violation of their individual liberty.
Ivey stood her ground on Wednesday, refusing to cave to those who want to end the mask order. For most of the COVID-19 pandemic here in the state, Ivey has followed health experts’ advice rather than politicos. Standing up to the Republican Party’s right-wing is not an easy task even in the best of times, but these days, with the party more radicalized than ever, Ivey is taking a huge political risk.
But like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, she hasn’t bowed, she hasn’t bent, and she hasn’t burned.
These are divisive times when even the best of people seem to be at war over the nation’s direction.
“Give me liberty or give me death” may have been a great rallying cry in 1776; it’s less persuasive as a public health policy.
Lately, some Alabama conservatives sound more like the John Birch Society members than the Republican Party of just a few years ago.
“In the name of fighting the coronavirus, more and more state governors are ruling by decree, curtailing freedoms and ordering residents to stay at home,” says the Birch website.
The Republican Party in the 1960s deemed Birchers dangerous and severed ties with the group. But like 60s racism, Red-baiting and a fear that socialist are lurking behind every corner, all that’s old is new again.
Not surprisingly, former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore is one of the leading voices in the fight to discredit the Ivey administration’s COVID orders.
Senate President Pro Tem Republican Del Marsh is part of the anti-masker movement and has suggested he’d like to see more people become infected to build the state’s overall immunity to the virus.
Marsh is certainly not alone; there is a motivated mop of miscreants who sees any restriction as an affront to them doing anything they please. Perhaps they can refuse to wear a seatbelt or maybe light up a cigar the next time they are dinning at the county club and show some real radical resistance.
The truth is many of those who condemn masks as an intrusion on personal freedom would happily compel their fellow citizens to pray at school and stand for the national anthem. They are more than willing to regulate liberties when it contradicts their opinion of what is good and wholesome. But heaven forbid they wear a mask to protect others—that is one regulation too far.
Like a pubescent boy, they live in a fantasy world; without consequences.
Anti-maskers are given to a form of herd mentality, which is part of a broader movement to discredit science for political purposes.
Perhaps the most critical job of a governor or lawmaker is the heath and safety of the public.
Masks protect others more than the wearer, and where the “Golden rule” should apply, it is trampled on just like Jesus’ admonition to love our neighbors as ourselves.
But I suspect that many of those who continuously espouse conspiracies, apocalyptic nightmares, and end time prophecies actually don’t like themselves very much and therefore don’t really care about the shared responsibilities we have toward others.
Writing for Business Insider, George Pearkes explains the four different types of liberty, according to David Hackett Fischer’s Albion’s Seed to explain mandatory mask orders.
“Efforts to require masks are a straightforward expression of ordered liberty,” writes Pearkes. “The concept of ordered liberty argues that without structure and a set of rules which are enforced for the common good, society would devolve into chaos.” He further concludes that “Mask orders are quite literally saving society from itself, so that we can be more free than we would if COVID spread even further and faster.”
Ordered liberty can be seen at the heart of Ivey’s policies during the coronavirus plague.
But for anti-maskers, “Live Free or Die” means they are free to do what they want, even if it kills you.
Ivey is putting people ahead of politics. We should wish more would follow her example.