October 2021 Group Watch: Tweet of the Month

Oct 15
Gov. Kay Ivey has announced that Gina Maiola will serve as communications director. Maiola is currently the governor’s press secretary. #alnews #alpolitics#alabamanewsnetwork

October 2021 Group Watch: Results of First 2021 Special Legislative Session

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey called the Alabama Legislature into the first of two special sessions; it convened on September 27 and ended on October 1. The purpose of the session was to address five bills that were aimed at prison reform and financing of the construction and renovation of specific facilities at certain locations. There were two reform bills to address sentencing reform and to require certain mandatory supervision of released inmates to include varying levels of electronic monitoring. There were three bills to: authorize a bond issue for prison construction and renovation; authorize the specific location for the construction of two 4,000-bed prisons and a process to determine which facilities will be renovated and which facilities will be closed and re-purposed; and authorize the appropriation of federal funds from the American Rescue Act that the state is eligible to access to replace loss revenue during the pandemic. Four of the five bills in the governor’s call passed during the five-day session. The bill to provide for sentencing reform failed to receive a favorable vote from the House Judiciary Committee, and thus never received a floor vote. All of the bills in the governor’s call originated in the House. Click here to view the bill summary from the first special session.

October 2021 Group Watch: Mazda Toyota Produces “Job 1” Vehicle at Alabama Plant

Mazda Toyota Manufacturing and its 2,000-plus team members celebrated the production of the first dealer-ready vehicle, a 2022 Corolla Cross,  to emerge from the partnership’s new factory in Huntsville. Mazda Toyota Manufacturing (MTM), the only North American facility to produce the Corolla Cross, is a joint venture partnership between Mazda Motor Corp. and Toyota Motor Corp. The plant will also produce a yet-to-be-announced Mazda vehicle. MTM is now hiring more than 1,700 additional employees to join its existing workforce, eventually reaching up to 4,000 once production is in full operation next year. The plant has the capacity to produce 300,000 vehicles a year, evenly split between the two nameplates. Already, a dozen suppliers and support companies have announced plans to launch operations in the region, meaning 2,000 additional jobs and a combined investment topping $725 million.

October 2021 Group Watch: Jo Bonnor A Finalist for President of University of South Alabama

The University of South Alabama in Mobile recently announced the shortlist of candidates to fill its presidential vacancy. According to the announcement, Governor Kay Ivey’s chief of staff Jo Bonner is among the finalists. In addition to Bonner, who is also a former congressman from Mobile,  Dr. Damon Andrew, dean of Florida State University’s College of Education, and Dr. Michael Tidwell, the immediate past president of the University of Texas at Tyler are on the list. Final interviews are scheduled over the next several weeks for each of the finalists in an open forum.

October 2021 Group Watch: Southern Research to Invest Nearly $20M in Birmingham

Southern Research has closed on the sale of its Maryland facility as part of the organization’s plan to spur investment and launch new facilities in Birmingham. The sale paves the way for the research nonprofit to invest almost $20 million in its Birmingham campus, which will bring an additional 50 jobs to Alabama. Southern Research’s founding dates back to 1941, when it was established in Birmingham. According to the nonprofit, Southern Research has involved itself in COVID-19 response since the pandemic began. The organization has directed more than $30 million in research and development on virus testing, treatment and vaccine development. Southern Research and Tonix, the organization which purchased the Maryland site, have collaborated on a COVID-19 vaccine that is currently in clinical trials. The partnership will continue as Southern Research moves forward with its work on vaccines and antivirals at its Birmingham campus. Southern Research is an independent, nonprofit scientific research organization that conducts work with its scientists and engineers across three divisions: life sciences, engineering and energy and environment.

October 2021 Group Watch: Department of Commerce Announces Promotion

The Alabama Department of Commerce announced that longtime employee Stefania Jones has been promoted to Manager of Governmental Affairs and Marketing, giving her the responsibility for key activities at the state’s lead economic development agency. In her new role, Jones will serve as Commerce’s representative on legislative matters, helping to shape policy positions and maintaining channels of communication with state lawmakers and their staffers. She will also be Commerce’s conduit to local and federal legislative and government offices. Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield said Jones has the talents and institutional knowledge to serve as an effective representative for Commerce in their multi-layered interactions with the state legislature. Jones has served as Secretary Canfield’s executive assistant since 2011, shortly after he took the helm at Commerce. Since that time, Alabama’s strategic economic development efforts have generated more than $50 billion in new capital investment and more than 160,000 job commitments.

October 2021 Group Watch: Medical Cannabis in AL Not Likely Until 2023

Last week, The Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission, which is working to get everything in place for medical cannabis in the state, said it will not ask the legislature to move up previously established dates regarding when medical cannabis will be available. The commission claims it has plenty of work to do in the meantime and didn’t want to open the door for other changes to the law by having it taken back up in the legislature. Read more here. 

October 2021 Group Watch: Committee Looking at Racism in AL Constitution

The Committee on the Recompilation of the Constitution, created with the support of both Republicans and Democrats to study the racist language still in Alabama’s Constitution, recently heard a proposal for revisions, and while the body did not accept the proposal with a formal vote, there were no objections voiced. A formal vote is expected in the coming weeks. Read more about the proposal here. 

October 2021 Group Watch: Gov Announces Birmingham-Area Crisis Center

Governor Kay Ivey recently announced that the Jefferson, Blount, St. Clair (JBS) Mental Health Authority in Birmingham will be the home to the state’s fourth crisis center. The addition to the Alabama Crisis System of Care will join AltaPointe Health in Mobile, Wellstone in Huntsville and the Montgomery Area Mental Health Authority in Montgomery in providing crucial mental health services to the citizenry. The state’s first three crisis centers were awarded funding in October 2020 and have been operational since May 2021. Crisis centers were established to serve individuals suffering from mental illness and substance use disorders. Crisis centers are a designated place for community members, law enforcement and first responders to take an individual who is in a mental health crisis. Crisis centers offer both walk-in access and the capacity for first responders and law enforcement to transfer individuals to the center for a warm hand-off to crisis center staff, short-term admission, medication management and case management.

October 2021 Group Watch: AL AG Requesting Updates to AL’s Law on Vaccine Mandates

In the 2021 regular legislative session, the legislature passed Act 2021-493, which states that “no government, school, or business in Alabama may demand that a constituent, student, or customer be vaccinated for COVID-19 or show proof of his or her vaccination for COVID-19.” This was in anticipation of a federal vaccine mandate, which President Joe Biden announced in September. Now, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall is asking the legislature to add two updates to the state law to help him challenge Biden’s vaccine mandate. Read more here.

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