October 2021 Group Watch: AL Accepting Hemp Growing & Processing Applications

The Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries has started taking license applications from Alabama hemp growers, those who process and handle hemp and interested universities. In 2016, the legislature passed the Alabama Industrial Hemp Research Program Act, which required the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries to set up a licensing and inspection program for industrial hemp production. The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 declassified hemp as a schedule I drug,  deemed hemp an agriculture commodity, and defined hemp as the parts of the marijuana plant that contain less than 0.3 percent THC. The industrial hemp industry can produce essential oils from CBD, as well as grain and fiber products. In the 2019 pilot program, Alabama granted 152 hemp growers, 59 processors and five universities. The final day to apply is November 29, 2021. More information for registration is available here.

October 2021 Group Watch: Gov Extends Emergency Flexibility for Hospitals

Governor Ivey has extended the state of public health emergency, which grants hospitals flexibility by relaxing regulations. On August 13, Governor Ivey announced a state public health emergency as ICU bed capacity in the state hit 95 percent, and COVID-19 hospitalizations approached record levels. The emergency measures made it easier for hospitals to access the resources they need and are supposed to ease pressure on the state’s health systems. It allowed out-of-state health practitioners to operate in state hospitals under temporary permits and for the implementation of hospitals’ alternative standards-of-care plans. It also allowed for expedited capacity expansion of healthcare facilities. This order is now scheduled to expire on October 31.

October 2021 Group Watch: Rural AL Companies Make a Splash at Made in AL Showcase

Companies making great products in small corners of the state stepped into the spotlight at the first installment of the Made in Alabama Showcase that featured extraordinary homegrown products. Six of the 12 companies honored by Governor Kay Ivey are based in rural Alabama communities, a fact not so surprising when you consider the variety of in-demand products originating from the state’s rural areas. Beatriced-based Monroe Meat Co. was one of several businesses recognized. The Monroe Brand Sausage company became a household name decades ago when its sausage biscuits were tossed from a company float during the annual Monroeville Hog festival. Today, hickory-smoked Monroe Sausage can be found in most grocery stores. Other companies highlighted were Henry Brick Co., a Selma-based brick manufacturer whose roots go back 65 years; Dean’s Cake House, an Andalusia bakery known for its seven-layer cakes and other treats; SouthFresh Feeds, a Demopolis-based producer of feeds for fish, cattle, deer and horses; SHOWA Group in Fayette County, which after 50 years has become the nation’s largest manufacturer of single-use nitrile gloves, an alternative to latex; and Kith Kitchens based in Haleyville, which started in 1998 as a family-owned business and now employs more than 700 people and is one of the largest cabinet makers in the United States.

September 2021 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

With COVID still putting stress on Alabama hospitals, Gov. Ivey has acted quickly to provide assistance by freeing up federal money to bring in extra nurses as needed. Money is also a big topic of discussion in the state’s longstanding prison problems, but State Representative Steve Clouse recently outlined a plan to finance the solution. There’s talk of at least one special legislative session in the coming months to address the prison issue.

There’s good news too. Alabama continues to earn accolades from national biz media praising its business-friendly environment. And special elections, appointments and private-sector promotions have added some new faces and put people in new roles in the state’s political scene.

Read on to learn more.

September 2021 Group Watch: Tweet of the Month

@WVTM13
Sept 15
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey takes aim at big tech after Facebook mistakenly removes campaign page

September 2021 Group Watch: Gov. Ivey Announces Funds to Hire Traveling Nurses

The governor announced the state would reallocate $12.3 million federal COVID-19 aid to pay for additional travel nurses to help Alabama’s struggling hospitals, many of which continue to see record numbers of COVID-19 patients. Public health officials and the Alabama Hospital Association say the state’s nursing shortage is the state’s most pressing need. The overwhelming demand for hospital beds are for unvaccinated patients. The $12.3 million of CARES ACT funds were previously obligated but not reimbursed among the various approved expenditures. House and Senate leadership praised the governor’s decision to help with the nursing crisis

September 2021 Group Watch: Rep. Clouse Outlines Plan to Fund Prison Improvements

During an appearance on “Capital Journal,” State Rep. Steve Clouse, chair of the House Ways and Means-General Fund Committee, laid out how the state plans to finance the early stages of the much-deliberated state prison solution. Clouse said it would be a combination of federal rescue money, an unanticipated surplus of general fund cash-on-hand and up to $785 million in borrowed money. According to Clouse, about $400 million of federal rescue funds will be used as an offset against lost revenue to the General Fund as a result of the COVID pandemic; the rest will come from a one-time surplus of general fund dollars totaling approximately $150 million, plus $785 million in bond authority. Fund use priorities will include the construction of two 4,000-bed mega prisons, one each in Elmore and Escambia counties; re-building of the women’s prison in Elmore; and major repairs at other prisons in the state. House Speaker Mac McCutcheon said he thought there may be a special session in late September to address prisons and another one likely in October to deal with reapportionment. Legislative special sessions are the sole province of the governor, but it is unlikely the Speaker would throw out a date without the benefit of conversation with the governor.

September 2021 Group Watch: John McMillian Elected Exec Director of AL Medical Cannabis Commission

The Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission voted to make Alabama Treasurer John McMillian its executive director. McMillian was chosen after a lengthy search by a subcommittee of the commission. The subcommittee recommended McMillian, and his hiring was approved unanimously. The commission voted to set his starting pay at $209,887.66. Vice Chair Rex Vaugh explained this number is in line with class A members of the governor’s cabinet. McMillian was elected Alabama state treasurer in 2018. He served two terms as Alabama Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries from 2011 to 2019. Prior to that, he served for 20 years as executive director of the Alabama Forestry Association. He served two terms in the Alabama Legislature and served on the Baldwin Commission.

September 2021 Group Watch: Alabama Ranked Among Best States for Business, Again

National publication Area Development reports that a survey of site selection professionals once again ranked Alabama among the top state for business, citing a range of factors that contribute to an inviting growth environment. Alabama ranks No. 6 overall in the magazine’s 2021 issue, the same overall as the previous year. The showing continues a long run in the survey’s Top 10 that reflects the state’s longstanding emphasis on facilitating economic growth and job creation. Alabama earned Top 10 rankings in 10 out of 13 different individual categories in the Area Development survey. High marks for Alabama include Speed of Permitting No.1; Overall Cost of Doing Business No.2; Business Incentive and Favorable Regulatory Environment No.3; Workforce Development Programs No.5; Cooperative and Responsive State Government No.6; Available Real Estate No.7; Site Readiness Programs and Energy Availability and Costs No.8; and Competitive Labor environment No.9. In July, the state earned the No.5 spot in Business Facilities magazine’s business climate rankings.

September 2021 Group Watch: Taylor Williams Promoted at PowerSouth

In preparation of future retirements and to better align its external affairs functions to serve its members, PowerSouth Energy Cooperative announced the promotion of Taylor Williams to director of external affairs. Williams, a Montgomery native and resident, currently serves as manager of governmental affairs and economic development. In the new role, he will be charged with overseeing the cooperative’s external affairs, including governmental affairs, economic development and community development initiatives. Williams holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Alabama and earned his MBA from Auburn University Montgomery. Williams has served PowerSouth in multiple operational capacities since joining the company in 2009. PowerSouth serves the wholesale needs of 16 electric cooperatives and four municipal electric systems. Altogether it supplies more than 1 million consumers in Alabama and Florida.

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