September 2023 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

As students across Alabama get back into the groove of school, Governor Ivey and other elected leaders have been putting a lot of emphasis on education issues this month.

Issues affecting the state’s economy were also put in the spotlight in recent weeks. Despite record-breaking numbers in economic growth and low unemployment, Alabama could be doing even better with the removal of a few barriers, like access to childcare. The legislature is expected to focus on these topics in the 2024 session to add power to the “Game Plan” bills passed in this year’s session. 

Find more details on all this and other key #alpolitics topics below.

September 2023 Group Watch: Tweet of the Month

Sept 17

236 years ago today, our Founding Fathers signed the United States Constitution establishing the government for the greatest country the world has ever known and securing “the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”

September 2023 Group Watch: Speaker Ledbetter Outlines Plans to Keep AL’s Economy Growing

Representative Nathan Ledbetter, Speaker of Alabama’s House of Representatives, recently outlined the pros and cons impacting Alabama’s economy. He touted the historic numbers that “paint a picture of robust economic progress and unmatched job growth.” But he also noted what these numbers don’t show, explaining the barriers that are hindering the state from reaching its full potential. To keep the state’s growth going, he said the legislature will likely make addressing these issues a priority in the 2024 legislative session. Read more here.

September 2023 Group Watch: Gov. Ivey Speaks to Alabama’s Youngest Students

Once an elementary school teacher herself, Governor Kay Ivey recently cleared her office calendar to visit elementary schools around the state. During a visit to Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School in Huntsville, she discussed the importance of reading and having a strong work ethic. She told students it was their job to study and work hard and be the best they can be, encouraging them to dream big, and explaining that with hard work and dedication, they can realize those dreams and aspirations. 

September 2023 Group Watch: Marion Military Institute Gets Funding Backed by Senator Britt

U.S. Senator Katie Britt recently celebrated $34 million in funding from the National Institute of Standards and Technology for a new Math and Science Building at Marion Military Institute’s Perry County campus. MMI has prepared young men and women across the country for successful civilian and military careers since 1842. It is a part of the Alabama Community College System and one of only four military junior colleges in the nation. According to Britt’s office, the new classroom space will enable the campus to expand course offerings in fields such as computer science, cybersecurity and information technology. MMI is home to one of the nation’s top Service Academy Programs, with more than 600 cadets receiving Academy appointments in the last seven years, and the school also counts more than 216 generals and admirals among its alumni.

September 2023 Group Watch: State Conducting Feasibility Study on State Health-Science HS

The state will soon know more about the possible construction of a statewide health-science high school near Demopolis, something Governor Ivey proposed during her State of the State address in March. The Legislative Contract Review Committee recently approved a $500,000 contract with a consulting firm to conduct a feasibility study. Under the governor’s proposal, the school will accept students in grades nine through twelve and offer a varied curriculum of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, as well as healthcare-based courses. The consulting firm will recommend a site location in November, with the final report complete in January 2024.

September 2023 Group Watch: AL Schools Can Apply for Portion $179M Capital Grant Fund

Public K-12 schools can now apply for up to $5 million from the state-funded Alabama K-12 Capital Grant Program administered by Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth’s office. The fund was created by the legislature during the 2023 regular session and can be used to:

  • Assist with capital projects that will enhance the educational environment of students;
  • Pay for existing debt on previous capital projects;
  • Assist with deferred maintenance on existing facilities;
  • Assist with projects to increase school safety and security and for technology and equipment for schools or students.

The required matching grant can’t be more than 35 percent of the total project cost. To receive grant money, schools’ application has to be endorsed by their local state senator and house member.

September 2023 Group Watch: Senator Garlan Gudger Honored as “Tourism Advocate of the Year”

State Senator Garlan Gudger (R-Cullman) was recently named Alabama Tourism Advocate of the Year at the 2023 Alabama Governor’s Conference on Tourism. Gudger, owner of Southern Accents Architectural Antiques, one of the top five architectural salvage businesses in the country, is currently vice chair of the state’s Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development Committee. Prior to being elected to the Senate, he served on Cullman’s City Council for 14 years. Read more here.

September 2023 Group Watch: Another Medical Cannabis Lawsuit Filed

Verano Alabama, which was initially awarded a license to grow and sell medical marijuana before the commission voided the decision, filed suit against the state in Montgomery Circuit Court. In the suit, Verano argues the commission lacked the statutory authority to void decisions and seeks reinstatement of the original awards. This latest lawsuit is part of a flurry of litigation against the commission, including one that alleges the commission violated the Alabama Open Meetings Act by deliberating in secret. That lawsuit, filed by Alabama Always, asks the court for a complete do-over, a move that would be at odds with the relief sought by Verano’s attorney.

September 2023 Group Watch: New Testing Standards Adopted for Alabama Third Graders

The Literacy Act, which became law in 2019, is focused on improving reading proficiency for K-3 students. One of its requirements is for third graders to demonstrate reading proficiency before entering the fourth grade. Last week, The Alabama State Board of Education voted to adopt a new testing standard for advancing third graders. This new benchmark could cause as many as 12,000 students to repeat third grade next year. Read more here.  

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