December 2012 Group Watch: News & Views from the Statehouse

The holidays are here, and we’ve got some news — good and otherwise — to share.

  • Alabama Moves Up 3 Spots: We’re moving on up! A recently released study by United Health Foundation reveals that Alabama is out-performing many of its Gulf Coast neighbors. The state rose to number 45 in the annual national health rankings, putting us ahead of South Carolina, West Virginia, Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana. Yet risk factors such as healthcare coverage and crime rates continue to be challenges for the state. The study lists obesity, diabetes and sedentary lifestyles among the state’s biggest problems. While the number of smokers has fallen in recent years, more than 24 percent of the adult population continues to smoke. The gains made in Alabama are attributed to increased high-school graduation rates and lower infant mortality rates. Alabama was 4th in fewest binge drinkers and 10th for the most public health funding per capita.
  • Governor & Wreaths Across America: Governor Robert Bentley recently took part in the Wreaths Across America Statehouse ceremony sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Following the ceremony in the state capital auditorium, a wreath was taken to the Fallen Heroes Memorial Wall in the Old Supreme Court Chamber in the capital. All Statehouse ceremonies nationwide will pay tribute to America’s fallen service members while honoring those currently serving. The ceremonies were held in advance of the national day, which was December 15.
  • State Board of Education Takes Action: The State Board of Education announced recommendations to the Montgomery Public School system relating to findings of grade changing involving 200 of the systems 14,000+ students. The recommendations included disciplinary action on the implicated staff, the development and implementation of more clear guidelines of the current grade reporting system, and the placement of a monitor, appointed by the state, to oversee compliance with the plan. The incident was described as “ a very critical breach of academic integrity.” The investigation revealed that the majority of the infractions were not made by classroom teachers but by administrative staff assigned by the superintendent to supervise the secondary education program at the district and school level.

December 2012 Group Watch: Victoryland Reopens

On Tuesday, Victoryland reopened its doors. Once the largest employer in the county, the gaming facility closed in August 2010 to avoid seizure of gaming machines by the state. The state claims electronic bingo machines are actually illegal slot machines. Attorney General Luther Strange has remained steadfast in his opposition to the machines, saying illegal gaming machines will not be allowed in Alabama, and objected to the reopening, but owner Milton McGregor and the opening received an enthusiastic welcome from a crowd who were waiting to enter and play. Stay tuned…

December 2012 Group Watch: Legislators Request ASU Documents

Three Alabama State legislators have submitted a request for school financial records under the Freedom of Information Act in wake of the most recent occurrences at Alabama State University. The request was submitted by Senator Dick Brewbaker, Representative Jay Love and Senator Trip Pittman. The request asks to identify all contracts, subcontracts, expenditures and other relationships between Alabama State University and public officials and their family members. Brewbaker chairs the Senate Committee on Education Policy, while Love and Pittman chairs the Education appropriations committees in the House and Senate, respectively. The request comes after the Alabama State University Board of Trustees’ decision to place the President on paid leave in late November. The board cited no reason for that action.

December 2012 Group Watch: Happy Holidays

From The Bloom Group

As another year draws to a close, we’d like to thank all of our clients for trusting us to be a part of your team. We look forward to working with you and serving you in the coming year, and on behalf of everyone at The Bloom Group, may all your days be merry and bright!

November 2012 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

After recent elections, in Alabama at least, Republicans rule:

GOP Takes Control of All Statewide Offices. The defeat of Democrat incumbent Lucy Baxley by Republican Twinkle Cavanaugh in the race for president of the Alabama Public Service Commission removes the last Democrat to hold statewide office in Alabama. This means the governor and lieutenant governor are Republicans, as are the attorney general, secretary of state and the treasurer. The speaker of the House of Representatives and leader of the state Senate are Republicans, and they hold super majorities in the Legislature. All nine members of the state Supreme Court and all criminal and civil courts of appeal are Republicans. Cavanaugh will join two remaining Republicans on the Public Services Commission.

Incumbents Win All Alabama Congressional Races. All six of the state’s congressional members won re-election by wide margins with at least 58 percent of the vote. Republican Martha Roby of Montgomery won a second term, and Republican Mike Rogers of Saks in east Alabama won his sixth term. Republican Robert Aderholt of Haleyville, north of Birmingham, won a ninth term, and Republican Mo Brooks of Huntsville won his second term. Representative Spencer Bachus of Vestavia Hills, a Birmingham suburb claimed his eleventh term, and Republican Jo Bonner of Mobile, who was not opposed, claimed his sixth term in office. The state’s lone Democrat and African American, Terri Sewell of Birmingham, won a second term.

Roy Moore Elected New Alabama Chief Justice. Republican Roy Moore won the race for Supreme Court Chief Justice with 52 percent of the vote. Moore has served in the court system in several positions since 1977. He was elected as the Chief Justice in 2000 and drew national attention for refusing a federal order to remove a granite monument depicting the Ten Commandments from the Alabama Judicial Building. He was removed from office in November 2003. The Chairman of the state Republican Party congratulated Moore and proclaimed there is no question he was the candidate who best represented conservative Alabama values. Moore defeated Birmingham circuit judge Robert Vance, who is better known for his father’s untimely death as a federal Judge. Robert Vance Sr. was killed by a mail bomb at his home.

 

November 2012 Group Watch: Alabama Focuses on Education Workforce Development

Alabama Secretary of Commerce Greg Canfield recently hinted at increasing collaboration between state education and economic development officials aimed at improving workforce development for industry. During an appearance in Birmingham, Canfield said he expects an announcement very soon from Governor Robert Bentley that will put the spotlight on the relationship between education and a ready workforce. Last year, the governor issued an executive order establishing the Alabama Economic Development Alliance, which Canfield chairs. The purpose of the Alliance is to improve workforce development for recruiting industry. According to Canfield, this is the first time in state history that the traditional economic development community and the education community are at the table together planning strategy. The governor pledged to not take a salary as governor until unemployment reached a suitable level.

November 2012 Group Watch: Alabama Will Not Set Up State Health Exchange

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley announced this week that the state will not establish a state insurance exchange under the Affordable Care Act. Bentley says the Affordable Care Act is neither affordable nor does it actually improve health care. The governor says his decision comes after speaking individually and in group settings with governors from across the country. The governor says he will not expand Medicaid under the current structure because the taxpayers cannot afford it. Under the Affordable Care Act, states have until November 16 to determine if they will set up their own exchange, or let the federal government form its own exchange. State officials predict participation in the exchange would have added a tax burden of up to $50 million on the people of Alabama.

October 2012 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

So far, fall has been full of news on insurance, new voting districts and more.

  • Governor Refuses to Comply with Health Care Exchange Deadline: Governor Robert Bentley announced that Alabama will not comply with a deadline in setting up state health insurance exchanges required under the Affordable Care Act. The U. S. Department of Health and Human Services asked states to submit lists of essential benefits that could be models for plans offered on the exchanges. The governor said the state would not submit the information because there had been a lack of guidance from the federal government. Bentley joins other GOP governors speaking out against or refusing to comply with various portions of the Affordable Care Act. The Act requires states to establish insurance exchanges, which are web-based marketplaces in which people can shop for health insurance plans. The exchanges are supposed to be operational by 2014. Health experts say if a state does not choose to comply the benchmark will be the largest small group plan in the state. In the state of Alabama that is presumed to be Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama’s 320 Plan.
  • State to Launch Insurance Verification System: TAlabama’s liability insurance law has been on the books for 12 years, yet 22 percent of drivers in the state are still uninsured; one of the highest rates in the nation. The state has been testing the Online Insurance Verification System since June; ahead of its implementation on January 1. Alabama will be the first state to use such a system.  State officials believe this system will lower the rate of uninsured dramatically, and the goal is to get the uninsured drivers in our state down below 10 percent. The new system will provide law enforcement a new tool to help catch those who try to break the law by using fake insurance cards. Starting January 1, you will not be permitted to register a vehicle in the state unless your insurance can be verified through the system or you can provide proof in person.
  • Justice Department Approves New Legislative Districts: The U. S. Justice Department has cleared Alabama’s new legislative districts for use in the 2014 elections. The Justice Department has to review new political boundaries in the state to make sure they don’t violate the 1965 Voting Rights Act by disenfranchising black voters.  Attorney General Luther Strange expressed pleasure that the Department of Justice has approved the redistricting plans. Strange said he is proud of his staff for handling the matter so quickly and for achieving a desirable outcome. The Legislature drew new districts last year for Congress and the State Board of Education, which also received prompt clearance from the Justice Department. The New district lines are based on the 2010 census.

October 2012 Group Watch: Senate Switch

State Senator Jerry Fielding of Sylacauga recently announced he is joining the Republican Party. Fielding said he is distressed with the national Democratic Party moving further to the left and added that his political philosophy and moral values are more in line with Republican Party. The 35-member Senate now has 23 Republicans, 11 Democrats and one independent. Fielding served as a district and circuit judge as a Democrat for more than 20 years before being elected a state Senator. Fielding is described by Republicans as conservative, pro-business and a “perfect fit” to join their ranks. Republican Governor Robert Bentley issued a statement welcoming Fielding to the Republican Party.

October 2012 Group Watch: Roll Tide!

A south Alabama pilot was flying his twin-engine Cessna to see No. 1 Alabama play Ole Miss in Tuscaloosa when he experienced engine trouble and landed his plane in a cotton field in Selma. The four men aboard the plane reported they were going to stop in Selma for barbecue. After their plans were interrupted, they hitchhiked a ride to Montgomery, leaving the plane in the field. Upon arriving in Montgomery, they rented a car and drove to Tuscaloosa for the late evening game. Now that’s FAN LOYALTY!

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