July 2020 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

As we enter the sixth month of COVID-19 and the multiple restrictions it has made necessary —including a new statewide mask requirement —
we still successfully held runoff elections, and there’s education news.
  • COVID-19 Update: Governor Kay Ivey issued her 14th supplemental emergency proclamation containing an amended Safer at Home Order that includes a statewide mask requirement. Individuals will be required to wear a mask or other facial covering when in public and in close contact with other people. The order extends until July 31,2020 at 5 p.m. You can read it at the link below.
  • Gov Announces Alabama Campaign for Grade-Level Reading Final Report and Recommendations: Governor Ivey recently announced the final report and recommendations of the Alabama Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. The final report provides recommendations to enhance Birth to Age Eight Systems; Family Engagement; Health and Wellbeing; Learning Outside the Classroom; and Special Education, English Language Learners and Struggling Readers. Campaign leaders have developed an introductory video with a call to action for the Alabama Children’s Policy Councils as they begin work on establishing a local, county-level Campaign for Grade-Level Reading to continue this important work in each of the state’s 67 counties. The local campaigns represent a grassroots effort organized around the common goal of supporting Alabama students in achieving reading proficiency.
  • Dr. Barbara Cooper Takes Helm at Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education: Governor Ivey announced the appointment of Dr. Barbara Cooper as Secretary of the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education (DECE). Dr. Cooper brings significant experience and expertise to the role, and she previously held senior level positions with the DECE and the Alabama State Department of Education. She served as DECE director of the Office of School Readiness and the Birth to Grade 12 advisor for Ivey’s Office of Education and Workforce Transformation. She was also appointed by the Alabama State Board of Education to serve as the chief administrative officer during the Montgomery Public Schools Intervention, where she worked to improve leadership and governance.


July 2020 Group Watch: Runoff Election Results

Several runoff elections were held on Tuesday with these results:

U.S. Senate: Tommy Tuberville (R) 60.74%; Jeff Session (R) 39.26%.
1st Congressional District; Jerry Carl (R) 52.29%, Bill Hightower (R) 47.71%.
2nd Congressional District; Barry Moore (R) 60.45%, Jeff Coleman (R) 39.55%.
District 5 State School Board; Tonya Chestnut(D) 61.35%, Fred Bell (D) 38.65%.
Place #2 Court of Criminal Appeals; Beth Kellum (R) 56.15%, Will Smith (R) 43.65%.

July 2020 Group Watch: AL Dept of Labor to Offer Extended Unemployment

The Alabama Department of Labor announced that Alabamians who have exhausted all other unemployment benefits will be eligible for the extended Benefits (EB) program. To qualify for the Extended Benefits program, an individual must have gone through both the normal 14 weeks of unemployment provided for by the State of Alabama and the additional 13 weeks provided by the federal government as part of the CARES Act in March. The Extended Benefits program is a federal project offered only when a state’s insured unemployment rate goes over 5.9 percent

July 2020 Group Watch: CARES Grant Awards

Governor Ivey has announced awards to several entities from the CARES ACT funds. The governor awarded $30 million to be used to establish a COVID-19 testing and safety development program. The program will be implemented by a coalition led by the Alabama Department of Public Health and the University of Alabama Birmingham. The governor awarded $48 million to the Alabama Department of education in response to challenges related to COVID-19. This allocation will enable schools to enact policies established in the Alabama Department of Education’s Roadmap to reopening Schools, such as equipping school buses with WiFi to increase internet connectivity in parts of the state and  providing digital textbook and library resources for students and to provide additional academic support to boost learning opportunities. Governor Ivey unveiled a $100 million small business grant program, called  ”Revive Alabama,” to support businesses with 10 or fewer employees that have been impacted by COVIV-19. Qualifying businesses may receive up to $15,000.

July 2020 Group Watch: Rep. Ron Johnson Dies

Representative Ronal Johnson of Sylacauga, the Dean of the House of Representatives, died from complications associated with liver cancer. He was 76 years old. Rep. Johnson held the District 33 seat for more than 40 years, making him the longest continuously serving member of the House. He was highly respected and one of the most productive members of the House. He was passionate in his engagement regarding the needs of his constituents and will be greatly missed by all.

June 2020 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

COVID-19 is still with us and still affecting business, school schedules and the legislative process. Read on for more details.
  • Special Session Still on the Table, But Not Before August: Governor Kay Ivey recently told legislators that there will be no special session prior to August because the state’s budget numbers will not be in before July 15. In a video conference, Ivey  told lawmakers that all options are on the table regarding whether or not there will be a special session. Ivey said that before calling a special session, she and her staff will work with a bipartisan group of legislators to ensure a plan is in place to maximize time in Montgomery and provide transparency to the public. She stressed that a special session will only address legitimate issues that cannot wait until the 2021 regular session in coming in February.
  • Roadmap to Re-Open Schools Almost Ready: State school superintendent Eric Mackey recently reported that the state’s roadmap for reopening K-12 public schools in August will be a multi-tiered plan and will include a virtual option for parents uncomfortable sending their children back inside school buildings. Tiers in the plan will be based on the spread of coronavirus in the community, with safety as the top priority. While a virtual option will be on the menu, not all school districts have the capability to serve that many students. The state Department of Education is creating a statewide virtual platform that schools can use to serve their students. Following a competitive process over the coming weeks, a statewide vendor for this service is expected to be named. The vendor will be available to assist those systems currently without a virtual platform.

June 2020 Group Watch: Tweet of the Month

June 17
Republic ServicesDiverts 1.7 Billion Pounds of Food, Yard Waste from Landfills http://story.cd/AAOKMAvia

June 2020 Group Watch: Gov Ivey Awards Grants to Assist in COVID-19 Recovery

Governor Kay Ivey has awarded more than $17 million to provide relief for Alabamians who faced unemployment and economic difficulties as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The Community Services Block Grants will be distributed to 20 community action agencies to provide services to qualified persons in Alabama. Funds will be used for a range of social and emergency services for senior citizens, people with disabilities and low-income families, including people who suffered financial losses during the pandemic. Types of assistance will be determined by the local agencies based on needs and may include food or rental assistance or help with prescription medication. The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs is administering the grants from funds made available by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

June 2020 Group Watch: Automakers Ramping Back Up

Alabama automakers have been ramping up production following the COVID-19 outbreak, with strict new protocols in place to prevent spread of the virus. Toyota, Honda, Hyundai and Mercedes-Benz all are implementing similar measures as employees return to work, including temperature checks, staggered shifts, frequent sanitizing and additional protective gear. Employees are having their temperature taken each time they return to work and answering a questionnaire to identify any potential exposure during lunch breaks and shift changes. Masks and cloth face coverings are required at all times inside all buildings unless people are eating or drinking, and offices are providing one new mask per day for employees. Face shields are required in certain areas, and cleaning and disinfecting activities have increased.

June 2020 Group Watch: Bill Pryor Named Chief Judge of 11th Circuit Court

Judge William “Bill” H. Pryor Jr. recently took over as chief judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. Pryor served as Attorney General of Alabama from 1997-2004, before being nominated by President George W. Bush to serve on the 11th Circuit in 2003. The 11th circuit court has jurisdiction over all appeals that come out of federal district court in Florida, Georgia and Alabama. The court meets in Atlanta. Selection as a chief judge on federal courts is based on seniority, and the chief judge serves a seven year term.

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