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February 2019 Group Watch: News & Views From the State House

Education and criminal justice issues are among the notable political headlines this month.
  • Governor awards grant to help prosecute domestic violence offenders. Governor Ivey awarded a $144,000 grant to the Office of Prosecutions Services Domestic Violence Resource Prosecutor program to help train police in handling domestic violence and sexual assault cases. The funds will assist law enforcement agencies and non-profit organizations to investigate domestic violence and sexual assault cases and help victims recover. The Office of Prosecutions Services works with domestic violence agencies in how to meet the needs of victims and also teaches law enforcement officials how to respond, investigate and prosecute domestic violence offenders.
  • Pay raise likely for Alabama teachers. State leaders seem to agree that a pay raise for educators is appropriate. It is, however, unclear how much of a raise legislators are likely to approve. Senator Arthur Orr, who chairs the Alabama Senate’s education budget committee, said that he supports a raise for teachers. Orr said it is too soon to say what percentage of pay raise is likely, but points to the fact salaries are lagging behind inflation since 2008. State Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey supports a pay raise for teachers, but he declined to give a percentage. Mackey said that decision is up to the governor and legislature.
  • Three new men’s prisons to be built. Governor  Ivey announced that her administration will seek bids for the construction of three regional prisons for men to replace aging, cramped facilities that the Alabama Department of Corrections has said are too costly to maintain and repair. The governor said new prisons are a necessary part of a larger plan to fix a system plagued by violence, a severe shortage of correctional officers, overcrowding, and what a federal judge ruled are unconstitutional deficiencies in mental health care. The financing arrangement is still to be determined. The options include an agreement under which the state would lease and operate prisons built by private companies, or a state bond issue to pay for construction.
  • Education and workforce training remain a priority for businesses. Alabama business executives believe education and workforce training remains the top issue currently facing the state. Business executives are surveyed annually by the Center for Business and Economic Research in the University of Alabama’s Culverhouse College of Business on various topics related to issues facing the state and their companies. More than 70 business executives participated in the latest survey in November 2018. This survey has been conducted since 2013 and for the third consecutive year education and workforce training has topped their list. Eighty-nine percent of respondents listed their top priority as education and workforce development. Business leaders are concerned over the tightening labor market.

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