1/20/2015 Group Watch: Governor’s Accomplishments

Governor Robert Bentley recently gathered his cabinet to discuss their first-term accomplishments. Bentley said the state announced 63,00o jobs during the last four years, including Airbus, Remington Arms Company and Golden Dragon Precise Copper Tube Group. He said that that size of state government has been reduced by not replacing state workers who retired. He also pointed to the soon-to-be completed consolidation of Information Technology services and the consolidation of state law enforcement under one umbrella. In addition, the governor said his cabinet saved money by negotiating interest rates on loans, cutting one loan’s rate from 4.2 percent to 1.7 percent. His office released a booklet that lists his accomplishments.

December 2014 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

Several bits of Alabama education news came out recently.

  • High School Graduation Rate Rises: The State Department of Education recently announced the high school graduation rate has risen to 86 percent. In 2011, the rate was 72 percent; in 2012 it rose to 75 percent, and in January 2013, it was reported at 80 percent. The increase means the state is four years ahead of schedule with the department’s plan to reach 90 percent by 2020. According State School Superintendent Tommy Bice, each percentage gain represents about 600 additional students graduating from Alabama high schools. The graduation rate is calculated using the National Governors’ Conference graduation rate formula. A recent report commissioned by the Business Education Alliance showed that reaching a 90 percent graduation rate would have a positive economic impact on the state of $430 million.
  • State Gets $17.5 Million to Expand Pre-K Programs: The State of Alabama was approved to receive $17.5 million under the federal Preschool Development Grants program to develop more pre-kindergarten programs in the state. Alabama was one of 18 states to be awarded grants and received the second-highest grant award amount, just behind Arizona’s $20 million grant. The grant will be renewed over the next three years. State officials say the funds could add up to 75 classrooms over the next year, bringing an additional 1,350 students into the voluntary program.
  • New Oversight for Teachers’ Pension System?: State Finance Director Bill Newton recently asked the board of control for the teachers’ retirement system to consider broader oversight of the fund due to the downward trend in the ratio of assets to liabilities. Newton said the pension system had a funded ratio of over 100 percent in 2000, but that has dropped to 64 percent. The board did not act on the recommendation. Retirement Systems chief Dr. David Bronner called the idea a slap at him and the staff. He pointed to the system’s recent returns, which are in the top 13 percent in the country.

December 2014 Group Watch: Happy Holidays!

It’s the time of year to give and get gifts, and we here at The Bloom Group would like to thank all of our clients for the gift of trusting us to help you reach your goals. Our gift to you is our continued promise to serve you with the professionalism, integrity and effectiveness you’ve come to expect. We wish you and yours a happy and safe holiday season, Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah, and we look forward to continuing our prosperous and productive partnerships with clients, colleagues and legislators in the coming year.

December 2014 Group Watch: AL GOP Chair Stepping Down

Alabama Republican Party Chair Bill Armistead recently announced he will not seek a third term as party chair. He was first elected 2011, and Armistead’s tenure saw continued electoral success for Alabama Republicans. The outgoing chairman inherited a party that under Hubbard’s leadership had just won control of state government. Armistead made a priority of working to build the Republican Party in local counties, hoping to break the Democrats’ control over local offices. The party will choose a new chair in February 2015, a process Armstead says he will stay out of and “let the chips fall where they may.” Former state Representative Mary Sue McClurkin announced that she will run for the position. Read more here. 

November 2014 Group Watch: Alabama Leads South in Children’s Health Insurance

Alabama has done a better job than all of its Southern neighbors and ranks fifth in the nation in providing health insurance to children, according to a recent study by Georgetown University’s Health Policy Institute. The report found that the steady decline in the children’s uninsured rate across the country since Congress created the Children’s Health Insurance Program in 1997 has slowed. Alabama stands out among Southern states. The 48,181 residents younger than 18 who had no health insurance in 2013 represented just 4.3 percent of all children. This is the 10th lowest rate in the country, well below the national average. Alabama moved up eight places from 2011, when it ranked 18th.

November 2014 Group Watch: New Majority Leader of Senate

Senator Greg Reed of Jasper is the new majority leader of the Alabama Senate. Newly elected members of the Senate met and re-elected Senator Del Marsh of Anniston as Pro Tem and elected Greg Reed as majority leader. Reed replaces Senator Jabo Waggoner of Vestavia Hills (Birmingham). Waggoner recommended Reed for the job because he wants to devote more of his time to the Rules Committee and Confirmation Committee. Waggoner chairs both of these powerful committees in the Senate. Reed voiced excitement about leading the largest Republican majority in the state in modern times.

November 2014 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

Republicans dominated statewide races in the November 3 elections, many coasting to victories or running unopposed. Governor Robert Bentley, Lt. Governor Kay Ivey and Attorney General Luther Strange all handily defeated their Democratic challengers by double-digit margins. Click to see the full election returns below.

  • Republicans Extend Majorities in Legislature: The Alabama Legislature, already a deep shade of red, became even more crimson on election day. They added six seats in the House of Representative, increasing their majority in the 105 member chamber from 66 to 72 seats. Republicans took four seats from Democrats, and picked up a seat being held by a retiring independent as well as an open seat in eastern Montgomery County. They added at least two seats in the Senate, increasing their majority from 23 seats to 25 seats. Democrats fell back from 11 seats to nine, while independent Harri Anne Smith, a former Republican, managed to win a second term as an independent.
  • Mike Hubbard Will Stay Speaker: The Alabama House Republican caucus voted during a three-hour meeting to keep Representative Mike Hubbard of Auburn as Speaker. They also voted to keep Representative Victor Gaston of Mobile as speaker pro tem and Representative Micky Hammon of Decatur as Majority leader. The House will officially select the speaker in January during the organizational session of the new Legislature.




October 2014 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

Budget news is front and center as we look ahead to the next Legislative session.

  • House Speaker Says General Fund Issues Will be Resolved Without Raising Taxes: As the 2014 election cycle drawing to a close, legislators are already looking toward the 2015 regular session. The $1.8 billion General Fund is a small part of the total $28 billion state budget. Most of the total state budget is earmarked for specific purposes, which gives lawmakers very little flexibility. There have been discussions about combining the state’s budgets, increasing the tax on tobacco products and a state lottery. House Speaker Mike Hubbard says that while some lawmakers are not negative towards a tobacco tax, most ran on not raising taxes. He also points out that un-earmarking or combining budgets would require a vote of the people, which could be a huge obstacle to overcome. Lastly, he says a lottery will have a difficult time getting through the legislature but suggests that creativity and collaboration will be necessary as the state moves forward.
  • State Pays Off More Trust Fund Debt: Governor Robert Bentley recently announced that the state has taken another step toward repaying money borrowed to fund education during the recession. At the end of the 2014 fiscal year, the state paid $70 million to the Alabama Trust Fund. That amount includes $35 million that was required in the budget, plus $35 million that was conditioned upon the availability of funds. Bentley said that together with a conservative Republican majority in the Legislature amd legislative budget chairs, the state has made substantial progress towards repaying the debt.

October 2014 Group Watch: Congressman Byrne Wins National Award

U. S. Representative Bradley Byrne of Mobile has received the National Association of Manufacturers Award for Manufacturing Legislative Excellence. Manufacturers in Alabama and throughout the country are making a comeback, creating jobs, making more products and making them better than ever before. Byrne has demonstrated an understanding of the type of policies needed to foster innovation, growth and competition. He is a strong advocate for the hard-working men and women who work in Alabama’s manufacturing industry. The National Association of Manufacturers is the largest manufacturing association in the United States, representing small and large manufacturers in every industrial sector.

October 2014 Group Watch: Incentives Aid Plant Expansion

The State of Alabama has pledged an incentive package worth more than $5.1 million for expansion at the Baxter International plant in Opelika. According to company officials, the $300 million project will add 200 jobs when complete. The expansion will increase the plant’s output of dialyzers, a key component of therapy for people with end-stage renal disease. The plant currently employs 170 people. The incentive package is structured to assist with screening and training of workers, industrial development considerations and performance incentives for increasing employment.

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