July 2017 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

The governor’s race is heating up along with the temps. Here’s the latest buzz on on that as well as some other political news.

  • Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox announces plans to explore run for governor: Maddox recently announced plans to explore running for Alabama governor in 2018. Maddox is using the slogan “Make Alabama proud again.” He says the most difficult decision of running for governor lies ahead, and he will continue to focus on his responsibilities as a husband, father and mayor. Maddox says that many have urged him to switch parties for convenience, but he says he has no plans to abandon the Democratic Party. He declared that the days of party rule should end, and that candidates should run for the people of Alabama. Maddox has been mayor since 2005 and won a fourth term earlier this year in a landslide. He has been praised for his economic development work and handling of the aftermath of the deadly 2011 tornadoes that hit the city.
  • State Senator Bill Hightower jumps into the race: Hightower, R-Mobile, is expected to formally announce plans to run for governor. Hightower has filed paperwork with the Secretary of State’s office to form a campaign committee for a gubernatorial campaign. He is the first legislator to enter the race. Hightower was interviewed by former Governor Robert Bentley earlier this year for appointment to the U.S. Senate to replace Jeff Sessions. He first won the Senate seat in a 2013 special election and was re-elected in 2014. He also owns an international corporate strategic consulting company.

July 2017 Group Watch: Dr. Tom Miller Retiring as Alabama State Health Officer

Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Tom Miller recently announced he is retiring this fall. Reports indicate that he is slated to retire September 1, 2017. Dr. Miller assumed the position in 2015 following the retirement of Dr. Don Williamson. Miller was highly regarded in health circles but came under fire for hiring the former director of the Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System who was terminated in 2014 for neglect of duty. The hire was rescinded following the backlash.

July 2017 Group Watch: Alabama Education Board Drops Testing Contract

The Alabama State Board of Education has voted unanimously against renewing the ACT Aspire testing contract. The contract decision affects the 2017-18 school year. The vote comes after news that ACT Aspire reports for schools across Alabama would be delayed due to coding errors in the formatting of results. Data from the ACT Aspire is supposed to help local schools and parents have access to detailed information on student progress. This information is then supposed to help improve instruction for the next school year and helps parents understand their students’ progression. A Request for Proposals (RFP) is forthcoming.

July 2017 Group Watch: Gov. Ivey’s First 100 Days

Governor Kay Ivey is touting the progress she and her administration have made during her first 100 days in office in a new video, including the improvements to our state’s infrastructure. Watch it here.

July 2017 Group Watch: Senate Special Election

A special election will be held in Alabama on December 12 to choose who will hold former Senator Jeff Sessions’ seat. Former Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange is currently holding the seat after being appointed to the vacancy by former Governor Robert Bentley. Read this al.com article that outlines who has thrown their hat in the race so far.

June 2017 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

Summer is in full swing, but work is ongoing on Alabama’s political front, with several new appointments and titles headlining the news.

  • Mike Jones named Alabama House Rules Chair: House Judiciary Committee chair Mike Jones of Andalusia moved over to chair the House Rules Committee. Jones succeeds Representative Alan Boothe of Troy who announced he would not seek re-election in 2018 and planned to step down as Rules chair. Jones, a two-term representative, oversaw the Judiciary Committee’s probe into former Governor Robert Bentley’s possible impeachment, helping the committee create a process almost from scratch. The Rules Committee decides agendas of bills for the House, and the chair plays a major role in determining the flow of legislation.
  • Jim Hill named Alabama House Judiciary Chair: Representative Jim Hill of Moody, a retired circuit judge, will chair the House Judiciary Committee. Hill had served as vice chair and has a reputation of fairness and impartiality. He served as a district court and circuit court judge in St. Clair County from 1994 until his retirement in 2013. He is now in a private law practice. He is completing his first term in the Alabama Legislature.
  • Governor Ivey names Acting Conservation Commissioner: Governor Kay Ivey named Christopher Blankenship acting commissioner of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. He replaces Gunter Guy, whose resignation was accepted by the governor. A spokesperson for the governor said, “She wishes Gunter Guy well, but it was a business decision and not a personal one.” The governor’s office said she would seek a permanent commissioner for the job. Blankenship, a 23-year veteran of the department, was Deputy Commissioner of the department and before that, served as director of the Marine Resources Division. The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources gets no money from the state’s General Fund, relying instead on self-generated funds from hunting and fishing license sales and federal funding.

June 2017 Group Watch: Attorney General Steve Marshall to Seek Full Term

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall, appointed to the position in February, has announced he will seek election to the office. He says his top priority will be to maintain an effective working relationship with local law enforcement. He looks forward to working with sheriffs, district attorneys, police and investigators who are on the front lines of public safety. Marshall was formerly district attorney in Marshall County, where he served for 16 years before his appointment as attorney general. He is the first candidate to file and will run as a Republican.

June 2017 Group Watch: Birmingham to Reduce Greenhouse Emissions

Birmingham Mayor William Bell recently announced that he will join a network of more than 200 mayors in the United States supporting local efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change. The City is investing about $61.3 million in upgrades to reduce energy usage and save the city $100 million over the next two decades. Birmingham is expected to see a $3.2 million savings the first year. The project is expected to take about two years and will include replacing lights in city buildings with LED lights; replace plumbing fixtures with low-flow fixtures; and institute a control system for energy systems across all city buildings, which will allow the city to control lights and HVAC when buildings are not occupied. According to the mayor’s office, some 10,022 streetlights have been converted to LED so far.

May 22, 2017 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

The Alabama Legislature finished the 2017 regular session last Friday. Here’s a short recap of what passed and what didn’t.

  • Redistricting: A new map of legislative districts was approved by both chambers and will now go back to federal court for approval.
  • Midwife Births: Certified midwives can now legally assist with births in Alabama.
  • Autism Coverage: Health insurance plans provided by companies with more than 51 employees must now include coverage for treatment therapies for children with autism. Governor Ivey signed it into law on Friday.
  • Prison Construction Plan: The plan to build four new large prisons stalled amid concerns about the cost and who would win the construction contracts.
  • Gun Carrry Without Permit: Despite making it through the Senate, this bill, which would have allowed individuals to carry guns without a concealed carry permit was struck down in the House, thanks in large part to vocal opposition from the law enforcement community.
  • Read more about these and the other bills and laws that passed or failed here.

5/22/17 Group Watch: Big Economic News

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey made a huge economic news announcement last Thursday in Autauga County, confirming that multi-national corporation James Hardie Building Products will open a multi-million dollar facility in Prattville. The economic investment is valued at $219 million with 205 jobs and an average wage of $25 per hour. Autauga County officials say this will be the largest industrial development in Prattville in 50 years. Hardie bills itself as a worldwide leader in fiber cement siding and backer board. The company has annual revenues of more than $1.5 billion and 3,200 employees around the globe.

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