January 17, 2022 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

Here we go again. The 2022 regular session of the Alabama Legislature convened last Tuesday. Governor Ivey kicked the legislative season off with her annual “state of the state” address. Much of the news she shared was positive, and there was a focus on ways to best use the American Rescue Plan Act funds coming to Alabama. She outlined the actions she wants the legislature to take on this topic. (And rumors of an early special session to tackle it are already in the air.)

Ivey also touched on her plans to expand outdoor recreation opportunities, and in doing so, boost tourism. She called for a pay raise for state workers as well. Read more on her remarks below and click on the “Read here” link to access the full speech.

As things really get underway in the coming weeks, look for gambling legislation to return and bills related to the creation of an Alabama Space Guard.

We’ve got more info on all this and more in this issue of Group Watch. And watch your inbox all session long for more Group Watch and the #alpolitics news you need to know.

The House and Senate return for day three of the 2022 regular session on Tuesday at 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m., respectively.

January 17, 2022 Group Watch: Tweet of the Week

January 14
Congrats, @ALEAprotects, on receiving this national honor from @COPSOffice! As I stated during State of the State, ALEA is leading the nation in offering sensory-inclusive training to our officers. I’m excited to see it’s already helping our community. @kulturec #alpolitics

January 17, 2022 Group Watch: 2022 Session Starts & Gov Ivey Outlines Where AL is Now

The Alabama Legislature returned to Montgomery last week for the start of the 2022 regular session. In an hour-long televised speech, Governor Kay Ivey addressed the state of the state. Here are a few of her main points:
  • American Rescue Plan Act $$: Alabama has approximately $1.7 billion in ARPA money that requires appropriation, and Ivey wants to make allocating these funds an early priority for the legislature. The state received $2.1 billion in ARPA money last year, and $400 million of it has been authorized towards a $1.3 billion plan to construct two large state prisons in Escambia and Elmore counties. Governor Ivey called on legislators to use the ARPA money to meet some of Alabama’s biggest challenges such as statewide broadband connectivity, water and sewer infrastructure, and to invest funds into hospitals, nursing homes, and other health care initiatives.
  • Budgets: The governor said that her budgets will include fully funding rainy day accounts, pay down debts and make investments that will pay long-term dividends to the state.
  • Tourism: Ivey expressed a strong commitment to further expand outdoor recreation and developments in our hospitality industry. Boosting tourism is eligible for the federal relief money and key legislators seem committed to such initiatives.
  • Pay Raises: Governor Ivey proposes a 4-percent pay hike for state workers and educators and a non-specific one-time bonus for state retirees. The governor pointed to the challenges facing state workers and educators during the height of COVID, where the public witnessed firsthand the obstacles faced by teachers and others.
  • Education: Ivey vowed to implement the Alabama Literacy Act during the upcoming spring semester and push for early learning opportunities.
  • Healthcare: The governor is proposing to add two new mental health crisis centers in Alabama, as well as other health services.
  • Special Session?: Although the governor did not address a special session in her speech, political insiders say there are rumors of one being called early this week and shared this possible schedule: On January 18, adjourn until February 1. Start the special session on January 19 with public hearing on ARPA funds the same day. Vote on a bill on January 20.
Click below for the full text of the governor’s speech.

January 17, 2022 Group Watch: Get Ready for Gambling Legislation, Again

A push is underway for a comprehensive gaming bill during the 2022 legislative session. New ads highlighting the economic impact of approving a comprehensive gambling and lottery bill are running primetime across the state. The Alabama Track Owners Association, a partnership of owners of the four greyhound racing tracks, including the Poarch Creek Indians, are running ads that  emphasize jobs created by passage of such a bill would generate more than $700 million annually and that encourage voters to contact their state lawmakers.

January 17, 2022 Group Watch: State Starts 2022 Session with Revenue Windfall

As the legislature figures out how to allocate ARPA funds, state finance folks shared that Alabama collected record-high revenue in 2021. The General Fund was up 11.4 percent, reaching $3 billion. The Education Trust Fund has hit $8.6 billion, representing a 16.4-percent hike over the previous year. It’s great news, but officials noted that the rate of increase was not sustainable and advised lawmakers to spend it carefully. One place some of the money may go is to the state worker and educator pay raise that Ivey called for in her state-of-the-state speech.

January 17, 2022 Group Watch: New Rail Project to Announced

Governor Ivey has announced the creation of the A-USA Corridor, a proposed $231.6 million program of rail projects to upgrade economic development infrastructure in central and southern Alabama. The first phase involves a $71.6 million initiative to link the Port of Mobile with the McCalla Intermodal Facility near Birmingham. This 280-mile rail corridor will also link mega economic development sites in Etowah, Shelby, Washington and Mobile counties, each totaling more than 1,000 acres. A fourth location in Jefferson County will see the development of a 104-acre site with up to 1 million square feet of warehouse space. The A-USA Corridor is a public-private partnership, with Norfolk Southern funding more than 50-percent of the project. Alabama is investing $5 million in the project, with the remainder coming from federal Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and safety Improvements Program grants through the Alabama Department of Transportation, in partnership with Norfolk Southern.

January 17, 2022 Group Watch: Repeal of NIL Law Being Discussed

A 2021 law that allows college athletes to make money off their name, image and likeness (NIL) is likely to be repealed in the coming weeks. A bill was approved by a House committee last week to do just that. The move is not intended to take things back to the days when college athletes were prohibited from earning money with their NIL. It is on the chopping block simply because it is actually more restrictive than the NCAA rules on NIL and therefore, could put Alabama universities at a disadvantage when recruiting athletes. Repealing the law has the support of both Auburn University and The University of Alabama. Read more here.

January 17, 2022 Group Watch: Wes Kitchens In as Alabama House Republican Caucus House Chair

Members of the Alabama House Republican Caucus elected State Rep. Wes    Kitchens of Arab to serve as the majority party’s vice chair. His election as vice chair makes him one of few freshman legislators in state history to hold the prominent leadership position. This leadership position was formerly held by Connie Rowe who has been tapped to serve as senior advisor to Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth. In his new role Kitchens would lead the lower chamber’s majority party in the event that House Majority Leaser Nathaniel Ledbetter is absent.

January 17, 2022 Group Watch: Alabama Space Guard Coming?

During an address to the Alabama Association of County Commissioners, Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth mentioned that creating an Alabama Space Guard was among priorities to be taken up during the 2022 legislative session. Ainsworth said a Space Guard unit within the Alabama National Guard would provide much-needed support for the U.S. Space Command and create additional jobs and investment. A year ago, Huntsville was chosen as the preferred location for U.S. Space Command headquarters, a decision that will infuse more personnel, military infrastructure and federal dollars.

January 17, 2022 Group Watch: Greg Canfield Honored by Manufacture Alabama

Alabama Department of Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield was the recipient of Manufacture Alabama’s “Friend of the Industry” award at the association’s annual Legislative Reception and Dinner in Montgomery. Manufacture Alabama is the state’s only trade association solely focused on representing the interests of the industry. The award recognizes public officials, community leaders and industry representatives for their contributions to the manufacturing industry. Manufacture Alabama president George Clark praised Canfield for his work as the state’s commerce chief, noting how his actions have benefitted manufacturers. Canfield was appointed Commerce Secretary in 2011 and has attracted economic development projects totaling more than $50 billion that have created more than 160,000 jobs.

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