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.

5/15/17 Group Watch: BCBS Autism Deal

The Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee chairman Trip Pittman said he met with Blue Cross Blue Shield’s chief executive officer and has a letter promising coverage for autism therapy staring January 1, 2018. The offer appears to have an age cap at 16 years old, while the bill pending in committee has no age limit. Some observers say BCBS is keen to avoid a legislative mandate that would set a precedent for future government healthcare mandates. Pittman has been one of the few vocal opponents of the autism due to his concerns about how the state would finance the benefit. According to him, the BCBS agreement would have the state provide $2.5 million for Medicaid. The autism bill passed the House 100-0. The Senate committee voted the bill out of committee on Wednesday with two amendments. One amendment caps the coverage age at 16 and the other provides an exemption for small businesses.

5/15/17 Group Watch: Senate May Change Healthcare Bill “A lot”

U.S. Senator Luther Strange said that the Senate is likely to change the American Health Care Act that recently passed out of the U.S. House of Representative. Strange described the House-passed bill as a good first step towards addressing a number of problems that remain. He said that Obamacare is not providing the care that they expected, and while Alabamians have “coverage”, they don’t have access to care. Strange said that premiums are too high, deductible you can almost never use, can’t get affordable drug coverage, leaving the insured with just a catastrophic policy. Strange said he is committed to getting it done right as opposed to getting it done quickly.

5/15/17 Group Watch: Tweet of the Week

@thebloomgroup: “Congratulations to our friend Vernon Barnett. @ADEMVBarnett

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