July 2021 Group Watch: Alabama’s Medical Cannabis Commission Coming Together

The 14-member board that will oversee Alabama’s new medical marijuana industry is being formed. The bill passed by the Legislature in May that legalizes and regulates the production and use of medical marijuana products in Alabama calls for the Medical Cannabis Commission to be in place by July 1. The commission has until  September 1, 2022, to establish rules for implementation of the program and to issue licenses to cultivators, processors, transporters, testing laboratories and dispensaries. The Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries will regulate the cultivators.

Governor Ivey, the lieutenant governor, the president pro tempore of the Senate, the speaker of the House, the agriculture commissioner and the health officer all get to make appointments to the commission, and the attorney general and secretary of state each name a non-voting advisory member.

Twelve of the total 14 have already been named. Governor Ivey announced her three appointees: Dr. William Saliski Jr., a pulmonologist from Montgomery; Sam Blakemore, a pharmacist at Children’s of Alabama hospital in Birmingham; and Dwight Gamble, a bank executive from Headland. Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth named Dr. Angela Martin, a pediatrician from Anniston; Dr. Eric Jensen, a biochemist from Brownsboro; and Loree Skelton, a healthcare lawyer from Birmingham. House Speaker Mac McCutcheon named Rex Vaughn, a Madison County farmer and north region vice president for the Alabama Farmers Federation, and Charles Price, a retired circuit judge from Montgomery. Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Reed appointed Dr. Steven Stokes, a radiation oncologist from Dothan, and Taylor Hatchett of Boozer Farms in Chilton County. Ag Commissioner Rick Pate appointed James Harwell, former executive director of the Alabama Nursery and Landscape Association and president of Green Thumb Nursery in Montgomery. Attorney General Steve Marshall has appointed AG Chief Counsel Katherine Green Robertson.

All nominees face Senate confirmation when the Legislature returns but can serve before confirmation since the Legislature is not in session.

July 2021 Group Watch: Governor Ivey Back on Gov Association Exec Committee

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey was once again elected to serve on the executive committee of the National Governor’s Association. The bipartisan National Governors Association works alongside governors in their efforts to restore public health and continue a robust, sustainable economic recovery. Serving along with Governor Ivey on the executive committee are the governors from Arizona, Colorado, Massachusetts, Michigan and New Mexico. The governors assumed their new roles during the association summer meeting, which took place in a virtual format.

July 2021 Group Watch: New COVID Vaccination Campaign in AL

A recent survey by the Alabama Hospital Association found that 94 percent of Alabamians hospitalized with COVID-19 were not vaccinated against the deadly disease. The fact was announced by the Alabama Department of Public Health in a statement that called for the public to help encourage others to get vaccinated through the newly launched “We Can Do This Alabama” campaign. Those participating in the campaign are asked to encourage three new people each week to get vaccinated, for four weeks. They’re also challenged to recruit five additional people to serve as local champions. Alabama’s vaccination rate is the lowest in the country.

July 2021 Group Watch: Gov & Lt. Gov Already Raising Big Bucks for Re-election

Governor Kay Ivey reportedly has raised $1.2 million in her bid for re-election. Her sizable war chest could deter challengers from either side of the aisle in the 2022 election. In a bit of saber-rattling, her campaign made the figure known ahead of mandatory election filings. Likewise, Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth announced that his campaign raised a historic $911,370 in the month of June. Ainsworth sees his early fundraising success as a product of the support he has enjoyed across the state.

July 2021 Group Watch: AL Rural Hospitals Receiving $ to Battle COVID-19

Alabama is receiving $10.3 million from the federal government to help small, rural hospitals with testing and other efforts to mitigate COVID-19. The Health and Human Services administration announced that the money would go to 40 Alabama hospitals with fewer than 50 beds. Hospitals will use the funds to maintain or increase COVID-19 testing, expand access to testing for rural residents, and tailor mitigation efforts to reflect the needs of local communities.

July 2021 Group Watch: State Rep Vying for Senate Seat

One of the Republican leaders in the Alabama House of Representatives will run for the state Senate next year. Rep. Mike Jones of Andalusia, who chairs the House Rules Committee, announced he will run for the south Alabama seat now held by Senator Jimmy Holley, who is retiring after next year. Holley is one of Alabama’s longest serving legislators, now in his sixth term in the Senate after five terms in the House. Holley represents District 31, which includes Coffee, Covington, Pike and Dale counties. Jones is a lawyer and municipal judge in Andalusia.

July 2021 Group Watch: Who’s the Next AL House Speaker?

That is the question following Alabama House Speaker Mac McCutcheon’s announcement of retirement at the close of the 2022 session. McCutcheon said he will not be on the ballot for re-election to his House seat. House Majority Leader Nathan Ledbetter of Rainsville announced his candidacy for speaker, as did Ways and Means Education Chair Bill Poole of Tuscaloosa. Poole exited the pursuit as quickly as he entered. Then, Ways and Means General Fund Chair Steve Clouse of Ozark announced that he was entering the speaker’s race. Insiders speculated Connie Rowe of Jasper, who is Vice Chair of the House Republican caucus, would be a candidate, but she quickly said it’s too early to commit to run with the decision not being made until December 2022. Stay tuned: Next year’s organizational session may be more of a thriller than the elections themselves!

First Black Republican Elected to the AL Legislature in 150 Years

Retired Army Sgt. Kenneth Paschal handily defeated Democrat Sheridan Black in a general special election for a Shelby County-based state House seat, making him the first Black Republican elected to serve in the Alabama Legislature since reconstruction. In comments after his victory, he noted that his win in the majority white suburb proves the GOP is “open to everyone.” He replaces Matt Fridy, who was elected to the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals. Read more here.

July 2021 Group Watch: April Weaver Wins Senate Seat

With a fraction over 80 percent of the vote, April Weaver won the special election for the District 14 seat in the Alabama Senate held on July 13. She previously served for a decade in the Alabama House and most recently served as the Region IV Regional Director for the United States Department of Health and Human Services, being tapped for the position by former President Trump. Read more here.

July 2021 Group Watch: Controversial Critical Race Theory Not in AL Schools

In a meeting earlier this week, The Alabama Board of Education worked on language for a resolution related to critical race theory that could see a vote later this summer, and State Superintendent Eric Mackey confirmed that CRT is “certainly not” currently being taught in the state’s schools. Read more here.

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