4 months ago

HB 192 merely the latest example of Alabama becoming an innovative leader in economic, workforce modernization

MONTGOMERY — Friday marked an important milestone in increasing Alabama’s competitiveness in the rapidly evolving 21st-century economy.

Governor Kay Ivey signed three priority bills into law, including HB 192 and HB 170.

That latter bill, sponsored by Rep. Danny Garrett (R-Trussville) and Sen. Dan Roberts (R-Mountain Brook), contains a provision entitled the Business Tax Competitiveness Act that includes moving the state to a single sales factor for corporate taxes. Garrett has said the act “will make our businesses more competitive.”

“This legislation allows Alabama companies to compete at the same level,” stated Roberts. “We’re trying to help our businesses be as competitive as possible and give them every advantage we can to succeed.”

Meanwhile, HB 192 — sponsored by Rep. Bill Poole (R-Tuscaloosa) and Senate Pro Tem Greg Reed (R-Jasper) — would extend and enhance job creation incentives found in the Alabama Jobs Act and Growing Alabama Act.

Reed and Poole appeared alongside Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro) and House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels (D-Huntsville) at a press conference on Thursday afternoon to discuss this landmark legislation, underscoring the bipartisan nature of not only this bill, but also Alabama’s modern economic development efforts in general.

Poole said the ultimate goal of HB 192 is “to create economic opportunities in every corner of the state and in a number of key strategic industry sectors.”

He also reiterated that the job-creation incentives renewed and “sharpened” through the bill are not received by businesses on the front-end but are instead performance-based. This means that businesses must successfully create new jobs under the parameters of the legislation before receiving a dime of tax credits.

Singleton said, “Whether you’re north, east, south or west, whether you’re rural or urban, we think this bill can start a big spark across the state of Alabama.”

He noted that for areas in the Black Belt like his district and other rural parts of the state, “We believe this is a game-changer for us. So I’m ecstatic today.”

“Plus, this bill was enhanced by allowing minority participation. … We’re very proud of the commitment that we’ve gotten from the Department of Commerce and the governor, and also along with [Reed and Poole], who said that they would make it a priority to make sure that it was inclusive and it was diverse,” Singleton added.

Daniels emphasized that HB 192 “is a very powerful piece of legislation that is going to really set the foundation for tremendous growth long-term in Alabama.”

“I’m just proud to say that today is a good day in Alabama, but it’s just the beginning,” he remarked. “There will be other tools that will follow this to make it complete.”

Much more than one bill

Similarly, as Reed discussed in an interview with Yellowhammer News recorded last week, this is merely the latest piece in a concerted, comprehensive effort to strategically prioritize innovation and increasing Alabama’s economic competitiveness.

Reed is the vice chairman of the Alabama Innovation Commission and has been at the forefront of major pieces of legislation to this end in recent years.

Speaking to Yellowhammer News in a joint interview with House Speaker Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia), Reed talked about not only what has occurred in the recent past related to incentivizing innovation and growth, but also what is still to come.

“If you look at, we go back to the Alabama Jobs Act — actually, the speaker and I sponsored the Alabama Jobs Act originally. He was the [Rules Committee] chairman at the time; he was not the speaker. But we worked on that together to pass that legislation,” Reed outlined. “In the Senate, the Growing Alabama and the AIM Act — I sponsored those in the Senate as well. So I’ve been involved and engaged in these incentive packages and opportunities to offer tools to economic developers in the Department of Commerce and ADECA to be able to utilize in recruiting industry to Alabama, is kind of a hallmark of what I’ve tried to do in my legislative service.”

“And Alabama has done extraordinarily well,” he continued. “I mean, our track record over the last several years has been really strong. But the speaker and myself back when we first did that four or five years ago, on the Alabama Jobs Act, we put a sunset provision in that law on purpose, so that it would force us as legislators to look at not just the good things that we had accomplished as a result [of the bill], but force us to look at what the landscape was going to be in the future.”

Just like that past example, HB 192 has a sunset date in summer 2023, meaning legislators will again be able to review incentive results and readjust as needed how to best position Alabama for future success in what Reed stressed is “a competitive environment.”

“We’re competing with Mississippi and Michigan and North Carolina and wherever trying to get industry to come to Alabama,” he affirmed. “We’ve been very successful, but that landscape is changing. One of the things that’s a hallmark of [HB 192] was that it has a shorter timeframe (sunset) on it than what we had originally with the incentive packages. And that is simply because we are doubling down on the idea that we don’t exactly know what our economy and what recruitment opportunities are going to be available to us in the future.”

“If you look at a post-coronavirus economy, what’s that going to mean in Alabama? What are things that are going to be different?” Reed explained. “We’ve got great stories, one of them that’s in my district in Fayette, Alabama, in Fayette County. You had a manufacturer of medical gloves, candidly, almost went out of business. But as a result of what transpired and the need for PPE, those folks are now, I think, they’re on their third expansion. They’ve gone from 100-something employees to 400 employees. And it’s just because their product is in such demand. There will be other things like that — kind of some bringing back onshore of businesses that Alabama wants to compete for.”

Reed also discussed Innovate Alabama, which recently released interim policy recommendations.

“I’ve learned so much in the Alabama Innovation Commission,” the senator from Walker County said. “That Innovate Alabama process — that Chairman Poole and I are chairing, that the governor appointed — we’ve got brilliant people that are on that commission. They’ve had all kinds of experience with entrepreneurial startups, high tech jobs, all these kinds of things — have had great success. We’ve got an advisory board for that commission that includes Condoleezza Rice and her resource available to Alabama now from the Hoover Institute at Stanford University, which has all kinds of research available to Alabama.”

“So, thinking about those kinds of things and being able to put incentive packages together and looking at where we’re going and what we’re doing, I think times are exciting,” Reed concluded. “I think Alabama’s future is very bright. … But being able to recruit, innovate, be competitive — it’s something that is very important to us. And I think this legislation gives us a chance to do that.”

That full video interview with Reed and McCutcheon can be watched here or below:

Reed, Poole, Singleton and Daniels on Thursday also praised Governor Ivey’s administration, as well as private sector partners, for their efforts related to HB 192.

For the state of Alabama as a whole, this comes at a time in which the same themes of innovation and modernization have comprised not just the core of economic development recruitment and expansion efforts, but also workforce development planning and programming.

While 2020 was certainly a uniquely challenging year, it also saw the Yellowhammer State continue to aggressively chart a path toward a more robust, resilient 21st-century economy under the leadership of Ivey, her administration and a broad spectrum of partners such as the Alabama Workforce Council, AIDT, and colleges and universities.

Ultimately, while tools such as HB 192 can incentivize companies to relocate to Alabama and existing Alabama businesses to expand, job creators still need qualified, skilled and reliable workers in order for potential growth to be fulfilled.

Tim McCartney, chairman of the Alabama Workforce Council, wrote in an op-ed, “Connecting Alabama workers to good jobs and employers to a skilled workforce is our most pressing objective and will help us achieve Alabama’s postsecondary attainment goal of adding 500,000 credentialed workers to Alabama’s workforce by 2025. As we plan for the economy we’ll need after the pandemic subsides, it is essential to connect workers to the upskilling pathways that provide them with new opportunities in rebounding fields and careers.”

With that in mind, Alabama has made significant progress related to workforce development over the past year.

This included being one of only eight states to receive a Reimagining Workforce Preparation Grant, which will go towards retraining efforts for those displaced by COVID.

The state also launched a first-in-the-nation tool helping people achieve self-sufficiency, called the Dashboard for Alabamians to Visualize Income Determinations (DAVID).

Another highlight was Ivey in recent months forming the Alabama STEM Council.

And, public sector entities and private sector partners including Alabama Power Company, Altec Industries, the Business Council of Alabama (BCA), and Balch and Bingham helped launch JumpStartAL in 2020. This initiative offers new education and training programs to develop Alabama’s next generation of highly skilled workers, headlined by virtual reality training solutions from the job simulator TRANSFRVR.

The road ahead

Friday also marked the start of the legislature’s break following the first two weeks of the 2021 regular session; both chambers will reconvene on Tuesday, February 23, having gotten off to a fast start by passing the three priority bills, among others.

“These are trying times for many across our state, and the legislature, working with the governor, identified these three pieces of priority legislation to help Alabamians recover from the economic hardships endured throughout this pandemic,” Reed stated.

“I am proud to say that the legislature, as of today, has accomplished our goal for the people of Alabama to pass each of these critical, priority pieces of legislation in the first two weeks of the legislative session. Alabamians expect these kinds of results from their representatives in the legislature, and we have delivered,” he continued. “I appreciate my colleagues in the Senate and the House, as well as the governor’s support and leadership, as we delivered these results for the people of our state.”

Senate Majority Leader Clay Scofield (R-Guntersville) added that he is “pleased with the work that has taken place not only among the Senate Republican caucus, but also across the aisle to deliver significant results for the people of Alabama.”

“There is certainly much work left to be done, and I am confident we will continue to focus our efforts on accomplishing successful results for Alabamians,” Scofield said.

Reed concluded, “While these have been a strong first two weeks of session, we still have a lot of important work ahead of us. I look forward to continuing the bipartisan collaboration we have seen over the past few weeks as we continue to deliver results to the people of Alabama.”

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

5 hours ago

Jim Zeigler considering ‘exploratory’ effort for Alabama governor in 2022

After much speculation, Gov. Kay Ivey announced her intentions to seek another term as governor in 2022 earlier this month.

Despite what were perceived to be controversial positions on pushing the Rebuild Alabama Act that raised the gasoline tax, her handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in determining what could remain open and closed and a failed Mobile Bay/I-10 toll bridge proposal, Ivey is still riding high in polling with strong approve-disapprove numbers.

However, State Auditor Jim Zeigler, whose term as auditor will be over after 2022 and is ineligible to run again because of term limits, told Mobile radio FM Talk 106.5’s “The Jeff Poor Show” on Friday that he was considering a run for governor in 2022.

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“I believe it’s very important for Alabama taxpayers, for the state government, for our future to have a viable opponent who has been raising issues and trying to hold the Ivey administration accountable,” he said. “And that is why I am considering myself setting up an exploratory campaign to test the waters for a gubernatorial run. Who else is there — who else took the lead in blocking the toll bridge over Mobile Bay? Who else took the lead in blocking Amendment One that would have taken away your right to vote for school board members and have them all appointed by the Governor? Who else took the lead in blocking this prison rental plan that would have had us paying over $3 billion over 30 years and then owning zero equity in the prisons, a terrible business plan?”

“I don’t know,” Zeigler continued. “If not me, then who?”

If Zeigler runs against Ivey in 2022, it would not be the first time the two of their names appeared on a ballot in a race against one another. In Alabama’s 2020 Republican primary, Zeigler took on Ivey in a race for state delegate for the 2020 Republican National Convention.

Ivey prevailed with 7,182 votes to Zeigler’s 1,729 votes — a margin of 80.6% to 19.4%.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly, and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.

8 hours ago

Alabama’s May unemployment rate drops to 3.4% — Post-pandemic rate at lows; Record high wages

Alabama’s post-COVID pandemic economic recovery seems to be humming along based on data released Friday by the Alabama Department of Labor.

According to a press release, Department of Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington revealed Alabama’s preliminary, seasonally adjusted May unemployment rate is 3.4%, down from April’s rate of 3.6%.

The 3.4% rate tops the May 2020 number of 7.9%.

“May’s rate represents 75,458 unemployed persons, compared to 79,319 in April and 174,680 in May 2020,” the release said. “May’s unemployed count is the lowest in 2021.”

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(ADOL)

“Our record-breaking streak is continuing in May, and we hope that it continues throughout the rest of the year,” Gov. Kay Ivey said in the statement. “Yet again, we’ve dropped our unemployment rate and each month we are getting closer and closer to our pre-pandemic record low unemployment rate of 2.6%. Our economy is adding jobs, and earlier barriers to joining the workforce have been significantly reduced. In fact, there are more job postings than there are people counted as unemployed! Alabama is, once again, open for business.”

Data showed that wage and salary employment grew last month by 4,700.

“Monthly gains were seen in the leisure and hospitality sector (+5,000), the trade, transportation, and utilities sector (+2,500), and the education and health services sector (+1,200), among others. Over the year, wage and salary employment increased 123,000, with gains in the leisure and hospitality sector (+37,100), the professional and business services sector (+23,000), and the manufacturing sector (+22,900), among others,” the release said.

Average weekly earnings for the private sector rose to a new record high of $974.12, up $66.91 over the year, according to the Department of Labor.

“As we continue to see improvement in nearly all sectors of the economy, we’re also seeing record high wages in Alabama,” Washington added. “Once again, our average weekly wages are at new record high, representing an almost $67 per week over-the-year increase. Both the leisure and hospitality and manufacturing sectors are showing record high wages as well, with significant yearly increases. The economy is responding as we expected to labor force fluctuations brought about by the pandemic.”

Broken down by county, Shelby County led the way with a rate of 1.8%, followed by Blount, Marshall, Franklin and DeKalb Counties.

Wilcox County topped the highest in the state with an unemployment rate of 8.8%.

When broken down by municipalities, Alabaster had the lowest rate at 1.7%. Selma had the state’s highest, coming in at 7.0%, followed by Prichard at 6.5% and Bessemer at 5.2%.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly, and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.

9 hours ago

Shelby warns Biden on defense cuts — ‘Military investments in China and Russia … outpace U.S. investment’

U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) fired his own warning shots over what he views as an inadequate defense budget proposal from President Joe Biden.

During a full Senate Committee on Appropriations review of Biden’s Fiscal Year 2022 Department of Defense budget request, Shelby expressed his concern that the administration’s defense spending plan placed the nation at a disadvantage compared to its adversaries.

“The National Defense Strategy provides a road map for what the Department of Defense needs – at a minimum – to meet the challenges posed by a re-emergence of long-term strategic competition with China and Russia,” explained Shelby. “Anything less jeopardizes readiness, the recapitalization of capital assets, and necessary investments in new and emerging technologies.”

Shelby, who currently serves as vice chairman of the powerful Senate committee, believes that not meeting current national defense demands sends a dangerous message to the rest of the world.

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“This year, the budget proposal signals to the world that this administration is not committed to investing in readiness, training, state of the art equipment, and technological overmatch,” Shelby stated. “With military investments in China and Russia continuing to outpace U.S. investments, I find it hard to believe that the requirements outlined by General Dunford just four years ago are no longer instructive.”

This critical assessment from Alabama’s senior senator comes less than a month after the highest-ranking U.S. military officer described the nation’s relations with China and Russia as “fraying.”

In an address to graduates of the United States Air Force Academy, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley said, “Right now we are in a great power competition with China and Russia. And we need to keep it at competition and avoid great power conflict.”

Milley and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin appeared before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday.

Shelby addressed both officials in his remarks, stating, “The world is a complex and dangerous place and I know that you both understand the magnitude of the challenges we face from our near peer adversaries who seek to undermine the United States’ position as a world leader and dominant military power. China and Russia are formidable adversaries and China, as you have acknowledged Secretary Austin, is proving to be a true pacing threat. China seeks hegemony – militarily, technologically, economically, and geopolitically – and is making unprecedented investments to see that to fruition.”

“Meanwhile, Russia is nearing the end of a massive military modernization program that saw its defense spending increase 30 percent in real dollars over the last 10 years,” he added.

Shelby concluded that he could not support an effective cut in defense spending in 2022.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

10 hours ago

U.S. Rep. Jerry Carl urges Biden to undergo tests for ‘mental impairment’

U.S. Representative Jerry Carl (R-Mobile) joined 13 of his congressional colleagues in urging President Joe Biden to undergo an examination to determine his mental fitness to serve.

The group cited a string of embarrassing verbal gaffes by the president as the basis for their request.

In a letter sent to Biden on Thursday, the Republican members of Congress explained, “We write to you today to express concern with your current cognitive state. We believe that, regardless of gender, age, or political party, all Presidents should follow the precedent set by former President Donald Trump to document and demonstrate sound mental abilities.”

They continued, “Unfortunately, your mental decline and forgetfulness have become more apparent over the past 18 months. In March, you forgot the name of the Pentagon, the Department of Defense, and the Defense Secretary, though you had said ‘Secretary Austin’ just a few minutes prior.”

In addition, the letter cites Biden’s telling of an Amtrak story with an inexplicable timeline, forgetting the first line of the Declaration of Independence and obvious disorientation during a visit to Texas as examples for why they believe Biden is in need of cognitive testing.

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The list of gaffes attributable to his mental acuity seems to be piling up for the 46th president.

During the G7 Summit in England recently, he asked British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to introduce the South African president.

RELATED: Biden lashes out at media member and Alabama native Kaitlan Collins over Putin — ‘You’re in the wrong business’

Fox News contributor Tammy Bruce has questioned whether Biden’s cognitive state is a national security liability.

Biden has received criticism in the early stages of his administration for calling on only a predetermined list of reporters during press conferences. The most recent instance of this occurred while Biden was in Geneva, Switzerland, for a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Carl and the other letter signers pushed for transparency with any medical assessments being made, as well.

“We encourage you to follow the example set by President Trump by undergoing a cognitive test as soon as possible and immediately making the results available for the American people,” they concluded.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

11 hours ago

ALGOP chair John Wahl: AEA resurgence ‘a concern’; Reminds GOP candidates ‘not a good idea’ accept their campaign contributions

For the first time in nearly a decade, the Alabama Education Association (AEA) seemingly flexed its muscle at the end of the 2021 legislative session by successfully pushing through a two-year delay to the Literacy Act, which mandates children be able to read at a third grade level before proceeding to the fourth grade.

Gov. Kay Ivey vetoed the delay, but it left political watchers wondering if this was just the beginning of the AEA’s return to the forefront of Alabama politics.

During an appearance on FM Talk 106.5’s “The Jeff Poor Show” on Thursday, Alabama Republican Party chairman John Wahl said it was indeed a concern for the party.

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“[I]t’s funny you bring that up because at one point in the past, there was actually a resolution passed by the state party, I believe, that was saying Republican candidates should not take money from the AEA because of their influence and the concern they would have over direct policy,” he stated. “So, of course, that’s a concern. That type of influence from anybody pushing to regulate themselves is never — you don’t want a group regulating themselves. That’s not good for policy.”

While there was a resolution in place that pertained to AEA campaign contributions to Republican candidates, Wahl said it was not an outright ban but a “strong recommendation” not to accept their money.

“I need to go back and look at the resolution in-depth,” Wahl said. “But I believe it was a resolution, so it’s not a direct ban. There’s no teeth to it. But it was a very strong recommendation to candidates — that it is not a good idea to take that money.”

“[T]here were jokes about how the AEA controlled the state and had a vast amount of control over policy and what would happen with the Governor’s office, the state legislature,” he explained. “So much of that has gotten better since Republicans have taken control. But you’re right — we’re seeing a resurgence, at least of their involvement. Hopefully not their influence.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly, and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.