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.

5/22/17 Group Watch: AL Senate Race

Last Wednesday, May 17, marked the closing deadline for entering the race for U.S. Senator. The primary is in approximately three months, with a runoff, if needed, to be held September 26. The general election is on December 12. Eleven Republicans and eight Democrats qualified.

Republican qualifiers are as follows:

  •          U.S. Senator Luther Strange (Former Alabama Attorney General)
  •          U.S. Representative Mo Brooks of Huntsville
  •          Roy Moore (Former Supreme Court Chief Justice)
  •          Dr. Randy Brinson (Former head of the Christian Coalition of Alabama)
  •          Dominic Gentile of Hoover
  •          Bryan Peeples of Birmingham
  •          State Senator Trip Pittman of Baldwin County
  •          Dr. James Beretta of Indian Springs
  •          Mary Maxwell
  •          Joseph F. Breault
  •          Karen Haiden Jackson of Prattville

Democratic qualifiers are as follows:

  •          Michael Hansen
  •          Doug Jones of Birmingham
  •          Robert Kennedy, Jr. of Mobile
  •          Jason Fisher of Orange Beach
  •          Will Boyd of Lauderdale County
  •          Vann Caldwell of Talladega County
  •          Brian McGee of Lee County
  •          Nana Tchienkou of Jefferson County

5/22/17 Group Watch: Tweet of the Week

@thebloomgroup: Our client @GeorgiaPacific is making a huge investment in Alabama. Thank you @GovernorKayIvey for attending the announcement. #alpolitics

May 15, 2017 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

The Alabama Legislature returned to work on Tuesday, May 9 for the 25th day of the session. Here are a few highlights of what was accomplished.

  • On Tuesday (25th day of session): The House passed a general bill to continue the Alabama Jobs Act and revise the cap on outstanding incentives. They considered without voting on the House reapportionment plan until midnight, at which time they adjourned while the almost 600 page bill was being read. The Senate passed a House-passed bill to authorize an income tax credit for the rehabilitation of historic buildings and other general bills to except from local leash laws dogs used for agricultural for work, to authorize a $5,000 income tax credit for certain rural certified registered nurse practitioners; to extend the weight allowances for motor vehicles operating on compressed natural or liquefied gas; and to authorize Care Assurance System for the Aging and Homebound to participate in the Local Government Insurance Program.
  • On Wednesday (a committee day): The House Agriculture and Forestry Committee approved a bill to exempt pine straw from sales and use tax. The Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee approved House-passed bills to authorize coverage of autism spectrum disorder under certain conditions and to continue with revisions to the Alabama Jobs Act. The Senate Education and Youth Affairs Committee approved a House-passed bill to remove the prohibition against County Superintendents having additional employment.
  • On Thursday (26th day of session):  After another day of reading the House reapportionment bill, The House  passed it late on Thursday night.  The Senate passed general bills to provide a one-time lump sum retirement payment to retired teachers; to provide cost sharing for certain children under the juvenile court jurisdiction between counties and municipalities; and to prohibit schools from using public funds or property to advocate for or against ballot measures.

5/15/17 Group Watch: House Approves New District Map

After reading the 539-page bill that defines it, which took 16 hours over two days last week, the House approved a new voting district map for the state. It now goes to the Senate, where a similarly long reading of the bill may take place. Read more here.

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