August 2019 Group Watch: Record Foreign Investment Key in AL Economy

Foreign direct investment continues to play a vital role in the state’s economy this year, building on a record total of foreign investment approaching $4.2 billion last year. In 2018, companies from 16 different countries launched projects with more than 7,500 new jobs. So far in 2019, projects approaching $1 billion in value will bring another 3,300 jobs to the state. Foreign direct investments account for between 30 and 50 percent of new and expanding industry activity in the state each year and fuel the state’s ability to have a diverse base of industries.

August 2019 Group Watch: Gov. Ivey Announces $1.2M for Traffic Safety

There will soon be a heavier state trooper presence on state roadways thanks to the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA). The national Highway and Traffic Safety Administration approved a grant request for $800,000 for traffic safety enforcement and $400,000 to address impaired driving. The state’s fiscal year 2020 general fund budget appropriates funding for additional state troopers.

July 2019 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

Money tops the news this month, with some healthy grants headed to the state (see below) and a big economic development win announced by Governor Ivey last week.

Ben E. Keith, a major food and beverage distribution company, plans to invest $100 million to open an advanced foodservice distribution center in Coffee County.

The facility will serve as the company’s Southeast Regional Distribution Headquarters. The project will create 80 direct jobs over the next five years and provide an economic boost to New Brocton, a town of around 1,100 people in southeastern Alabama. Ben E. Keith is one of the largest family owned distribution companies in the nation.

July 2019 Group Watch: Tweet of the Month

July 2 
Slow down, take a second and double check those back seats! Hot cars claim 16 children’s lives this summer as car safety bill is introduced via @ABC

July 2019 Group Watch: AL Airports Getting Grant $

U.S. Senator Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, announced that 10 local airports throughout Alabama have been awarded more than $9.7 million in Federal Aviation Administration grants. According to Senator Shelby, the $9.7 million in funding awarded by the Department of Transportation will significantly aid in the development of local airports across the state. Senator Shelby is chair of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, which authors and advances the FFA and DOT funding legislation. The funding distribution is based on entitlement and discretionary awards.

July 2019 Group Watch: ASU Gets $2.25M Grant

Alabama State University just received a multimillion-dollar boost to its science and technology programs, landing a five-year, $2.25-million grant to fund its research work, STEM educational programs and emerging technology. The funds will be used to give undergraduate students an opportunity to gain multidisciplinary research knowledge and skills in bioengineering and nanotechnology. The money comes from the National Science Foundation and will provide participating students with stipends along with travel funds to present their research at scientific meeting and conferences.

July 2019 Group Watch: AL Abortion Procedure Ban Not Revived

The U.S. Supreme Court won’t revive Alabama’s ban on the most commonly used procedure in second-trimester abortions. The measure has been blocked by lower courts. The justices rejected the state’s appeal in which it sought to enforce a law enacted in 2016 that bans the abortion procedure known as dilation and evacuation. Courts have blocked similar laws in Kansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Texas and Arkansas. Court records show 93 percent of abortions in Alabama occur before 15 weeks of pregnancy. The remaining 7 percent of abortions are almost all by dilation and evacuation.

July 2019 Group Watch: Possible Prison Takeover?

While the focus has shifted from state politics to national and presidential politics, a possible special session of the legislature to address Alabama’s beleaguered prison system is still on the horizon. Earlier this year, the Department of Justice advised the state government that some of the current men’s prisons were in violation of the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution’s “cruel and unusual punishment” provision. It also implied that if measures were not taken to improve the situation, the prison system could face action from the federal government, which could come in the form of a takeover. Recently, State Senator Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) echoed that reminder during a radio talk show. He seems to think that a special legislative session is looming for early 2020.

July 2019 Group Watch: Charles Graddick to Head Pardons and Paroles

Governor Kay Ivey has appointed former Alabama Attorney General Charles Graddick of Mobile as director of the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles. Graddick served as attorney general from 1979 to 1987. He also served as a circuit judge in Mobile, where he most recently served as senior judicial advisor and director of courts for the city of Mobile. The appointment comes after the legislature passed a bill that gave the governor the appointing authority during the last regular session. The new law goes into effect September 1, which coincides with Graddick’s start date.

June 3, 2019 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

During this year’s regular session of the Alabama Legislature, more than 1,000 bills were filed in the House and Senate, a third of which were passed. The legislature overwhelmingly approved a gas tax (in a special session that interrupted the beginning of the regular session) and a commission to study medical marijuana, but let die a bill to carry a concealed weapon without a permit. It tinkered with the notion of a state lottery before finally letting that measure go the way of the dodo once again.

It was a busy and tumultuous session to be sure, but as of last Friday, it’s over. While some issues like abortion and the possibility of a lottery grabbed headlines, one of the legislature’s key tasks, creating and passing budgets to run the government, deserves equal attention. On the last two days of the session, conference committee reports reconciling the differences in the Education Trust Fund and General Fund budgets were adopted, and both were passed.

The General Fund budget ($2.1 billion) and Education Trust Fund budget ($7.1 billion) have now gone to Governor Ivey’s desk to be signed. Of note are the pay raises included: The GF budget calls for a 2 percent pay raise for state employees, while the ETF budget includes a 4 percent pay raise for education employees.

The General Fund budget also addresses the state’s ongoing prison woes, allocating $517 million to The Alabama Department of Corrections, an 8 percent increase over last year, mainly to fix staffing issues. The bump up will pay to hire more correctional officers and allow for an increase in pay for current officers.

The ETF budget is the biggest it’s been since 2008, with a major increase going to the state’s community college system and its First Class Pre-K program. The budget also fully funds the Public Health Employees Health Insurance Program.

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