2/15/2013 Group Watch: State of the State

Governor Robert Bentley delivered the State of the State address on Tuesday evening. Governor Bentley outlined his agenda, vowing to repay money borrowed from the Alabama Trust Fund, defend gun rights and push for legislation to give local school boards flexibility in dealing with state laws. The governor also called for additional funding for the state’s pre-kindergarten program and a 2.5 percent pay raise for teachers and support workers. The 2.5 percent pay raise for teachers and support workers will cost an estimated $92.5 million, and Republican legislators held out hopes that money would be available to fund a 1-2 percent raise for education employees after they repay money to the Rainy Day Account and the Alabama Trust Fund. The governor also touted bills to consolidate state law enforcement agencies and information technology functions within state government to achieve efficiencies. Read the full address here.

January 2013 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

Things are getting busy in downtown Montgomery as the 2013 Legislative Session draws near.

  • “Guns in Schools” Summit at Capitol. Children’s safety at school was at the center of discussion recently in the auditorium of the state capitol. Lawmakers, educators and law enforcement came together to look at ways to prevent a school shooting in Alabama. The summit was in response to the school shooting in Connecticut that left 26 dead, including 20 young children. There was no discussion of new gun restrictions, like banning assault weapons or high capacity magazines. Most of the discussion centered on the role of teachers, law enforcement and mental health professionals. Alabama Governor Robert Bentley has asked his Homeland Security Director to lay out a strategic plan for preventing and responding to active shooting situations. One lawmaker proposed to arm at least some school personnel to respond in such situations.
  • House Speaker Names Leaders. Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard recently made some leadership appointments prior to the start of the 2013 regular session of the Legislature. He appointed Representative Lynn Greer of Rogersville to chair the committee on Transportation, Utilities and Infrastructure; Representative Mac McCutcheon of Capshaw to chair the powerful Rules Committee; Representative Allen Farley of McCalla as vice chair of the Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee; and Representative Barry Moore of Enterprise was named vice chair of the Commerce and Small Business Committee. Speaker Hubbard also named Representative Bill Roberts of Jasper vice chair of the Committee on Boards, Agencies and Commissions.
  • Governor Bentley Backs Off Proposal for 2013 Session. Governor Robert Bentley has backed off one of his proposals for the 2013 legislative session starting February 5. The governor talked in September about passing financial incentives to get veteran state employees to retire and reduce the state payroll. During the holidays, he announced was putting the proposal on hold because the state was achieving savings without the incentives. His decisions came after only a few hundred state workers expressed interest in such incentives and after the state pension system warned that the short-term savings on payroll might not be worth the long-term effect on pension and health insurance costs. Bentley said in a recent interview, “If we have the right number retire, we will not have to provide incentives, and it will save the state money”.

January 2013 Group Watch: Tweet of the Month

 from @SenTomWhatley
Aubie riding to the farm to begin “supervising” Tyler and Bo this morning. He is tough but fair.

January 2013 Group Watch: Sen Shelby Gains Important Seat

U.S. Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama is the new top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, where he will have an even greater say in how federal dollars are spent. The slot opened when Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi moved to become the top GOP member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. For Shelby, it was a two-decade-long wait for his seniority to accumulate. Senate Republicans gave him a seat on the coveted panel after he switched parties in 1994, and he has showered the state with federal dollars ever since — mostly for defense and aerospace projects; medical, science and engineering facilities; and public universities. As vice chair, he will have a strong say over federal budget items such as Social Security and Medicare.

January 2013 Group Watch: “No Need for Federal Input”

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange says the state’s practice of discriminating against minorities at the ballot box is a relic from a bygone era, and the state no longer deserves to be punished for it. Strange filed a brief to support a challenge brought by Shelby County to two key provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The provisions require the state to ask the Justice Department or a federal court for approval before making any changes to election procedures. State officials argue that preclearance allows the Justice Department to discriminate against states subject to preclearance and interferes with the state’s regular business by delaying the implementation of changes. The United States Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in late February.

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.


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