The Wire

  • New tunnel, premium RV section at Talladega Superspeedway on schedule despite weather

    Excerpt:

    Construction of a new oversized vehicle tunnel and premium RV infield parking section at Talladega Superspeedway is still on schedule to be completed in time for the April NASCAR race, despite large amounts of rainfall and unusual groundwater conditions underneath the track.

    Track Chairman Grant Lynch, during a news conference Wednesday at the track, said he’s amazed the general contractor, Taylor Corporation of Oxford, has been able to keep the project on schedule.

    “The amount of water they have pumped out of that and the extra engineering they did from the original design, basically to keep that tunnel from floating up out of the earth, was remarkable,” Lynch said.

  • Alabama workers built 1.6M engines in 2018 to add auto horsepower

    Excerpt:

    Alabama’s auto workers built nearly 1.6 million engines last year, as the state industry continues to carve out a place in global markets with innovative, high-performance parts, systems and finished vehicles.

    Last year also saw major new developments in engine manufacturing among the state’s key players, and more advanced infrastructure is on the way in the coming year.

    Hyundai expects to complete a key addition to its engine operations in Montgomery during the first half of 2019, while Honda continues to reap the benefits of a cutting-edge Alabama engine line installed several years ago.

  • Groundbreaking on Alabama’s newest aerospace plant made possible through key partnerships

    Excerpt:

    Political and business leaders gathered for a groundbreaking at Alabama’s newest aerospace plant gave credit to the formation of the many key partnerships that made it possible.

    Governor Kay Ivey and several other federal, state and local officials attended the event which celebrated the construction of rocket engine builder Blue Origin’s facility in Huntsville.

4 weeks ago

Guest: The legislature is back. Here’s what it should prioritize

(API/Contributed, YHN)

260 days. That’s how long it had been since the Alabama Legislature had been in session. That’s 260 days for the coronavirus to spread and 260 days for Alabamians to feel the impact of the virus and our government’s response to it. Pair that with the fact that the 2020 session was so abbreviated and you get almost two years since a full legislative session had occurred.

To be fair, it is not the legislature’s fault that they were relegated to watching the governor make decisions from afar while they did what they could to plan for the 2021 regular session. Unlike the vast majority of states (36 of 50, in fact), Alabama does not allow the legislature to call itself into a special session. Only the governor can do that. In 2020, our governor opted not to do so.

But now that they’re back, the big question is, “What should they do?”

The legislature has already fast-tracked bills related to issues that Governor Ivey temporarily addressed through emergency proclamations last year. Specifically, the state’s law providing economic incentives to businesses in the state and a clarification that federal relief funds won’t be taxed by the state.

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These are largely uncontroversial. Also uncontroversial and on the way to final passage is an effort to enact Covid-related liability protections for businesses, churches, and other organizations.

Surely, in the midst of a year-long emergency, this is not all the legislature can come up with to help.

Thankfully, there appears to be an appetite to do more to help the people of Alabama from some legislators. Here are some additional areas where they should put that impulse to good use.

First, there is the issue of restoring the balance of power in cases of prolonged emergencies such as what we are experiencing with Covid-19. Currently, the legislative body as a whole does not have to approve of any emergency declaration.  This should be changed so that any emergency order by the governor lasting over 30 days must be approved by the legislature as a whole. Senator Whatley’s bill (SB97) would make this adjustment. That mess about the legislature not being able to call itself into a special session? Representative Nordgren has a bill (HB21) that would fix that, too.

Second, legislators should make permanent two other executive actions from Governor Ivey by eliminating the certificate of need process (which has been deemed by the federal government as a failed initiative) and by allowing occupational licenses from other states to be accepted within our borders.

Third, the legislature must address the problems with our state’s education system in a new way (i.e. not throwing more money at the system). The Alabama Accountability Act should be expanded, education savings accounts should be made available for all students, and “pods,” in which families join together to form schooling communities, should be formally protected from government interference.

Fourth is legislation that is being carried by Representative Danny Garrett and Senator Dan Roberts that removes impediments to business growth and modernizes the code of Alabama into one more attractive to business and investment.

While we’re making suggestions, we also have to highlight the fact that, in the midst of the pandemic, Alabama has yet to use any of its rainy day funds ($708 million between the two budgets for 2021). In fact, we hear on a seemingly regular basis that the budgets are doing well. For the state government, it seems like this rainy day has been more of a misty morning.

Not so for the private sector. For them, the government’s response to the pandemic has been a hurricane. And just like in a hurricane, businesses across our state had to shutter windows and close their doors. At least in a hurricane closing up and hunkering down is voluntary. This was different. This was compulsory. Even after the lockdowns were lifted, some, especially those businesses in the hospitality and restaurant industries, had gone under for good.

Those businesses which have managed to stay afloat? They face growing challenges every day.

In Montgomery, though, things are fine. Just as always. In fact, they’re flush with cash and looking to expand the budgets.

To rectify this, the legislature should, if not permanently, temporarily lift taxes that disproportionately affect those most vulnerable to the economic downturn. The grocery tax is one such example. Any shortfall that occurs to the state budgets should result in cost savings measures or, after all efforts to cut back on spending have been made, the use of rainy day funds.

Some of these reforms are admittedly major changes. But government as usual isn’t looked upon favorably by constituents anymore.  Though Joe Biden is president, Donald Trump won Alabama easily because he promised to end government as usual and put Americans first. Since the dynamics in Washington have changed, it is essential for our state legislature to protect our state from the negative effects of misguided federal policy. It would be wise for the Alabama Legislature, therefore, to pursue these changes. Both for the state’s overall wellbeing and because Alabamians expect nothing less.

Caleb Crosby, a veteran of the George W. Bush administration, including a stint at the White House, has been president of Alabama Policy Institute since 2013. API is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit research and educational organization dedicated to free markets, limited government, and strong families, learn more at www.alabamapolicy.org.

4 months ago

As citizens, we must expect less from government and more from ourselves

(API/Contributed, YHN)

I have the honor of leading the Alabama Policy Institute, a non-partisan, non-profit educational and research institution which has championed free markets, limited government and strong families for over 30 years.

When you look back at our state’s major policy discussions, you will most likely find that API was right there in the midst of the battle. We do not take lightly the task we have been given to work for good government which leads to flourishing and opportunity for all Alabamians.

Today, we find our state at a crossroads.

We must decide whether we are going to govern and live by the principles we say we believe in, or whether we are going to say one thing and do another.

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The word “conservative” gets tossed around freely these days and it is difficult to land on a definition that everyone can agree on.

Often times it is used in terms of culture.

How you dress or get your hair cut, whether you have a beard or are clean-shaven. If you take your coffee black or order a latte, drive a truck or Prius.

Other times it is used to define a candidate in a race with criteria that has been set by the political elite.

Regardless of the outcome of the election, whether we know it quickly or in a month, we are going to have to come together as conservatives and agree that government is not the answer. Government cannot and should not be the default solution for the problems we face.

Having spent eight years in Washington, D.C. working at the highest levels of government, I can assure you that government is not the answer.

So, what is the answer? What does conservative mean? Faith and church, family, civic institutions and community are the answer. Personal responsibility is the answer.

Men and women, families, working to make this state, our nation and our world a better place through hard work and ingenuity is the answer, not government dictates.

That’s conservatism.

I often hear the refrain that government should mandate certain things or make laws because people cannot be trusted with that responsibility, nor can individuals be trusted to do the “right thing.”

Yet, the role of government in this nation was intentionally limited from the start.

With this view of conservatism, then, what we should expect from our elected officials is less, not more.

When we, as individuals and communities, ignore the problems of society and leave them to the government to address, we take the responsibility to offer solutions off of ourselves. At best, that’s lazy, and at worst it’s an act of cowardice.

When we constantly defer to the government, as if it is the great healer of all that ails us, society is then missing out on the individual and communal ingenuity that is necessary to tackle all forms of challenges. As a result, we are left with a one-size-fits-all approach forced on us by government bureaucrats and out of touch, and often disingenuous, politicians.

Government solutions will always be centralized, monolithic, and conforming. We need decentralized, diverse and dynamic solutions that can only come outside of the public option.

I was shaped by this truth at an early age when my mom started the first Save-A-Life center in Jackson, Alabama, the small town that I grew up in. She saw a need and stepped up. And I saw firsthand what happens when neighbors help neighbors by offering a local solution to a local problem.

We live in a broken world with broken people. So allowing free people to order society and choose outcomes for themselves will always be risky, and it is not without faults.

But we can’t medicate ourselves with government.

As a society we have lost our sense that life is full of risk and reward.

The temporary risk is worth the growth that comes from the process and is realized in the final result. You can’t have the ups without the downs.

This is where API is headed and where we hope to help lead our state toward. To help and hold accountable our government. To not have government do more, but less. To call all Alabamians to expect less from their government, while giving more of themselves to tackle the challenges that face our state and country.

We must be willing to take the risk that comes with self-reliance and limited government, as that is where the beauty and solutions will be found.

Caleb Crosby, a veteran of the George W. Bush administration, including a stint at the White House, has been president of Alabama Policy Institute since 2013. API is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit research and educational organization dedicated to free markets, limited government, and strong families, learn more at www.alabamapolicy.org.

10 months ago

Extending freedom is not irresponsible

(API/Contributed, YHN)

When Georgia’s governor announced that the state would allow some non-essential businesses to reopen, everyone had an opinion. What I heard and read most often, however, was how his lifting of restrictions was, “reckless” and “irresponsible.”

I see a glimmer of hope in Governor Ivey’s recently issued “Safer at Home Order” as it lessens some restrictions on individuals, families, and businesses, but we must do more to quickly return to a sense of normalcy, normalcy which is rooted in individual liberty and free choice.

Friends, having the freedoms granted to us by our Creator, recognized by our founding fathers, and protected by our Constitution, is not irresponsible.

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It’s not hard to see why people might think so, though. It seems that over time, culture has disconnected the relationships between freedom, safety and responsibility.

Freedom and safety are inversely related. The more choices you have the more likely you are to be impacted by the consequences of those choices. The consequences could be abundantly good or disastrously bad, but the freedom to make those choices is key.

Responsibility for consequences has to reside with the one making the choice.

If you have the freedom to make a financial, health or spiritual choice, you must be responsible and accountable for the consequences of those choices. You can’t make bad health choices and expect to be shielded from the impact of those decisions. Likewise, if you are an entrepreneur and your business does well, you should be the primary benefactor from that success.

Unfortunately, culture has ceded some freedoms in the quest for safety/security.

The government has become the one making more choices for us and now bears more of the responsibility for them. Think of the explosion in bureaucratic regulations over the last 50 plus years and the resultant need for more and more administrators to keep us in compliance by limiting our choices so we don’t “hurt ourselves.” With time this mindset becomes presumptive: “if the government still allows this choice, it must not be harmful, right?”

This is not how we should live.

The government does not and should not have the primary responsibility for your health. And that is a good thing. The more responsibility for our well-being that we sacrifice to the government, the less free we, the people, become.

And for what? At best, the illusion of safety?

The government does not infringe on our right to eat a dozen donuts every day. This is a freedom we have.

Soon enough, whether it is in two weeks or the month after next, the government will return our right to eat out at restaurants, go to the movies, and congregate in larger numbers again.

Allowing these things is not irresponsible.

In fact, the main duty of our government is to protect these fundamental rights.

The very fact we are depending on the government to “return” our rights is problematic. The government does not give us our rights, it only protects them; the government cannot “take” or “give back” that which doesn’t belong to it.

Governor Kemp and others are not forcing businesses to open and accept customers just as they do not force people to eat twelve Krispy Kremes. What the government of Georgia is saying, and what Governor Ivey is saying as well, although measured, is that the burden of responsibility should be back on the people where it belongs.

So, when our health and that of our family and friends is chiefly our responsibility again, how should we act? Should we do everything the government says is legal?

Absolutely not.

We must take our freedoms and actually be responsible with them.

Look at the data and infection rates in your county and city and determine what’s best for you. Maybe hold off on going to the gym for a bit? If you’re a small business owner, find creative ways to encourage social distancing in your store. If you’re a pastor, consider ways to start in smaller groups before congregating together fully as new cases continue to fall. In other circumstances, if you’ve had COVID-19 and recovered, for example, this could be an opportunity to help stimulate the economy by getting back to work or by serving those in the community who are most vulnerable.

America is built on the idea that individuals, not the government, are best suited to determine which freedoms they should exercise and how, and in when to be cautious with those freedoms.

The truth is, regardless of what the government says, it is still up to us to make our own decisions of what is best for us, our families, and our communities as we look toward getting back to normal.

And we know that day is coming.

Things will be, in some fashion or another, normal again.

There is a lot at stake here. Thomas Jefferson may have said it best when he said, “We act not for ourselves but for the whole human race. The event of our experiment is to show whether man can be trusted with self-government.”

In that vein we must remember that during this interim it is our responsibility, not the government’s, to use our freedom in a way that is responsible and furthers the continued success of our state and nation.

Caleb Crosby, a veteran of the George W. Bush administration, including a stint at the White House, has been president of Alabama Policy Institute since 2013. API is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit research and educational organization dedicated to free markets, limited government, and strong families, learn more at www.alabamapolicy.org.