2 months ago

Read Gov. Kay Ivey’s entire 2020 State of the State Address

MONTGOMERY — Starting at approximately 6:30 p.m. CST on Tuesday, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey delivered her 2020 State of the State Address from the Old House Chamber inside the State Capitol.

Major themes of the address covered the Rebuild Alabama Act that was enacted last year, criminal justice/corrections reform, education reform (including teacher pay raises), respect for law enforcement, the 2020 Census, statewide Amendment One on the March 3 ballot, broadband, rural healthcare, mental health and gambling/the lottery.

Video of the address is available here.

You can read Ivey’s entire address as prepared, as follows:

Lieutenant Governor Ainsworth, Pro Tempore Marsh, Speaker McCutcheon, Speaker Pro Tempore Gaston, members of the Alabama Legislature, Chief Justice Parker, justices of the Alabama Supreme Court, distinguished guests – and my fellow Alabamians:

Thank you for allowing me to address you — and the 4.8 million other citizens for whom we all work —with an update on this place we know and love, our Sweet Home, Alabama!

As you can see, I’m working with one arm – not tied behind my back – just tied up! But, as I always say, there’sno step too high for a high stepper! I’ll be fine.

Last month, I had the pleasure of joining you — and many others from around the state — in participating inAlabama’s Bicentennial Celebration.

Thanks to you, we not only marked our first 200 years in fine fashion, but, together, we began writing the first chapter of our next century. And with the continued involvement of all our people — and with God’s continuedblessings — there is every reason to believe that our third century will be our best yet!

Governor Thomas Kilby, Alabama’s 36th governor, stepped onto this very spot — in this historic chamber — one hundred years ago to speak to the people of our state about what Alabama’s second century might look like.

Like me, Governor Kilby had served as Alabama’s Lieutenant Governor prior to being elected governor. Hewould go on to increase funding for public education and public health, invest in new roads and bridges, while also devoting more attention and additional dollars to law enforcement and yes, even to build a new prison.

Governor Kilby understood that government action can oftentimes become the engine for economic expansion and that education is the key to both economic and social success.

As the old saying goes, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”

Members of the Legislature, on this first day of the 2020 legislative session, we can be confident with our plans to build on our past as we step boldly into a new century for our great state. Our 3rd century begins with a strong, robust economy and a renewed commitment to look for new opportunities to answer old challenges, many of which have been around for decades.

Shortly after becoming your governor in April 2017, I realized that our great state had ignored too many problems for far too long. We had put Band-Aids and duct tape on old ideas, old roads and bridges, and tired old prisons long enough.

While these challenges can seem daunting, we know that one person can make a difference if you remain true to your core values. A challenge is an unmet opportunity. For me, those are to always tell the truth, to level with the people of Alabama and always shoot straight, and to not be afraid to take on difficult challenges.

I believed then — as today — that Alabamians were ready to do big things!

Each one of you – in one way or another – confirmed these beliefs with what, together, we achieved during our first Legislative Session of the Quadrennium last year.

And for that reason — and a whole lot more — I am proud and extremely pleased to report to you tonight that the State of our State is strong and growing.

Early on, I made one of the most important decisions I would make as your governor, and that was to begin regular meetings with the Bipartisan Leadership of both the House and Senate.

Look, no one here will be shocked to learn that our two political parties don’t always see eye-to-eye.

But unlike what we’ve seen nationally, I knew that no one party has a monopoly on good ideas. And I felt —and time has proven me correct — that these bipartisan meetings would help us come up with bipartisansolutions on everything from infrastructure funding to hopefully improving our state’s education system.

Success breeds success. And there is no better time to think big – and be bold – than now! Our future generations depend on us to do so.

A prime example of the benefit of working together was Rebuild Alabama.

Many pundits – and longtime observers of the Legislature – noted that the first session of the Quadrennium last spring was one of the most productive in decades.

To that end, I want to sincerely thank each of you for helping us address one problem that other legislatures and governors before us put off for 27 years… dealing openly and honestly with our aging, crumbling infrastructure.

In recent weeks and months, we have announced the state’s portion of $122 million worth of road and bridge projects in more than 48 of Alabama’s 67 counties. And this is just six months after the new revenue begancoming in.

And as I promised the people of Alabama on the day I signed this bill into law, Rebuild Alabama will only be spent on building roads and bridges. And, in fact, we added strong accountability measures to make certain of this.

It was the first of many bipartisan efforts that we accomplished last year. And the good news is Alabama still has one of the lowest gas prices of any state in the nation!

One of my top priorities for this upcoming session is tackling another problem that others have either chosen to ignore or been unable to solve.

Both my strong faith in the Lord – and a heartfelt concern for basic human rights – gives me a sense of urgency to address our longstanding challenges within our criminal justice system. Ladies and gentlemen, we simply cannot afford to wait any longer to tackle this problem… and failure is not an option.

Thanks to the support of the Alabama Legislature, we made good progress during the last session to address theissue of understaffing. I’m pleased to report that our recruiting and retention efforts are improving and moving in the right direction.

Over the past seven months, the Criminal Justice Study Group I appointed last year analyzed many of the crucial components necessary to address the needs to rehabilitate those within our prison system.

I am exceptionally proud of the hard work – and tireless efforts – of Justice Champ Lyons and Senators Chambliss, Ward and Singleton and Representatives Rowe, Hill, and England – for their willingness to put any preconceptions aside, leave politics at the door and work together for what is truly in the best interests of our state.

I look forward to working with the Legislature – and others – on bills specifically designed to address some of these issues.

Currently, work is well underway in addressing our antiquated and crumbling prison infrastructure. In the past few weeks, I visited Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore and Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka to see these issues firsthand.

Some of our worst, most over-crowded facilities – one of which was built more than 90 years ago — were never designed for the number of violent offenders we have today.

That is why I tasked Commissioner Dunn to spearhead the efforts to build three new prisons that will transition our facilities from warehousing inmates to rehabilitating people.

Ladies and gentlemen, Alabama has no choice but to reinvent our corrections system by replacing outdated and unsafe facilities that pose a great risk to public safety – and inhibit development of programs for inmate rehabilitation.

You’ve heard me say this before, this is an Alabama problem that must have an Alabama solution. I look forward to working with each of you.

To aid with successful reentry, the Community College System provides educational, technical and workforce training.

Ingram State, where I also visited recently, is the only postsecondary institution in the country that exclusively serves the incarcerated population.

Y’all, this partnership is changing lives. Just ask Brandie McCain.

In just one year, Brandie had completed the coursework needed for three logistics certificates at Ingram State. She was among the first group of Ingram students to earn a nationally recognized credential in logistics.

Brandie worked with Ingram’s job placement team to locate a job where she could use her newly acquiredskills. With their assistance, she landed a job at Wright Way Staffing in Fairfield, where she quickly moved up the ranks to become an office administrator and staff recruiter.

In her new role as an employer, Brandie is giving back by looking to hire other qualified Ingram State graduates. Brandie, please stand.

Members of the Alabama Legislature, please join me in welcoming Brandie McCain and applauding her incredible achievement!

As important as it is to fix our prisons, an even better investment, long-term, is building a world-class public education system.

In a few minutes, I’m going to outline my plans for how we will continue making investments toward this goal.But first, I want to, once again, level with you, the Members of the Legislature, and perhaps more importantly, with the people of Alabama.

During last year’s session, the Legislature gave the voters of Alabama an opportunity to help move oureducation system in a bold, new direction, by having an opportunity to vote on AMENDMENT ONE, which will be on the March 3rd primary ballot.

Unfortunately, we’ve gotten all-too-complacent to being at or near the bottom of national education rankings.

Ask yourself this question: Is there any high school in Alabama, much less any college or university, that would continue to keep a head coach who produced teams that were consistently dead last? Would Auburn or Alabama?

Sadly, too many of our third graders are not proficient in reading. In fact, according to the Nation’s ReportCard, we are 49th in the nation in reading and we are 52nd in the nation in math! And it only gets worse as theyget older… too many of our high school graduates simply aren’t ready for college or a career.

Let me be abundantly clear… this isn’t the fault of our hard-working teachers, principals or localsuperintendents…Folks, it starts at the top.

Alabama is one of only six states that still has an elected state school board and this board has selected 5 State Superintendents in the past 5 years.

Very simply, Amendment One will create term limits for the State Board and no member will serve more than two six-year terms, thus bringing fresh new ideas to the commission every few years.

Equally important, the newly constituted board will reflect the racial, gender and geographic diversity to reflect the make-up of students in our public school system.

There’s no other way to say it but our current system isn’t working.

For us to prepare today’s students for tomorrow’s opportunities, it is time we get serious: It’s time for creativity.
It’s time for accountability.
It’s time for stability.

It’s time to vote YES for Amendment One on March 3rd!
Despite our challenges in education, there has been much progress in some areas that are worth noting.

Since becoming your Governor in April 2017, the early results from our ‘Strong Start, Strong Finish’ initiativegive us every reason to be extremely optimistic.

When fully implemented, our students who get the best start possible, early on, are all but guaranteed that they have endless opportunities when pursuing their dreams post high school.

We all know that a world-class workforce begins with a world-class education system.
And the path that leads to that starts with a solid foundation constructed during the first 5 years of life.Just think… 95% of a child’s brain develops from birth to age 5.

My education budget that I am proposing will provide an additional $25 million dollars to expand our nationally-recognized First Class Pre-K program. This significant increase will expand the program by another 193 classrooms.

The bottom line is simple… Providing the tools for a great start in life will yield dividends for generations to come. Join me in applauding Secretary Jeana Ross and her team at the nationally-recognized Department ofEarly Childhood Education for having the nation’s best Pre-K program year after year.

Speaking of investing in our future, tonight I am proposing a $1 billion-dollar public school and college authority for K-12 education, as well as for our two- and four-year colleges and universities.

This money will be distributed on a formula basis to allow for much-needed capital improvements across the state. Equally important, this bond will not include any legislative earmarks for pet projects.

It has been almost 14 years since Alabama made an investment of this size by providing direct help to our schools. And whether it is for new construction, safety improvements or technology upgrades, this billion- dollar investment is coming at the right time and for the right reasons. I urge the members of the Legislature tohelp us make this investment a top priority for Alabama’s future. Our children are counting on us.

As I said before, the challenges we face with our public schools can’t be blamed on the teachers, theadministrators or the students. Our teachers are vitally important to our student’s future; I am living proof ofthis.

Growing up in Camden, my first-grade teacher was Mrs. Elise Hickey and she was a favorite. She left a lasting impact on my life by creating within me a passion for reading. It was because of her that led me to believe that if a child can learn to read, they can learn to do anything.

Ladies and gentlemen, Mrs. Hickey is one of the reasons I stand here as Governor!

Teachers in our state deserve to be compensated for their hard work. They instill a love of learning in our students and help them dream to become the next generation of doctors, economic developers, and small business owners.

That is why I am proposing a three percent pay raise for all teachers: pre-k through community college.

While no state in the nation has had more success in recent years attracting new investment and new industry, Alabama must redouble our efforts to ensure that we will have the most-sought after and qualified workforce in the country.

We have set an ambitious — but needed goal — of 500,000 employees with post-secondary credentials by 2025 that will stretch across all aspects of our education and workforce system. Our future depends on it.

Last year, an unemployed Army veteran, John Carroll, came to the Decatur Career Center hoping to turn his life around. He was going through some personal troubles and was out of work.

That’s when Carl Flemons, a veteran’s representative at the Department of Labor, stepped in.

Carl helped John work on his résumé, helped him apply for jobs, and most importantly, helped him restoreconfidence in his skills and abilities. With the Career Center’s help, John landed a job at a local doormanufacturing company.

Within a few months, thanks to his hard work and determination, he turned that opportunity into another job with LG Electronics as a safety coordinator. John is still employed there today even though a few months ago, he was facing considerable barriers to employment. Both John and Carl are with us this evening and we welcome you to your State Capitol!

Carl, your example of going above and beyond is representative of so many of our dedicated state employees. For that reason, and many others, I am also calling on our Legislature to provide a two percent increase for all state employees. This is the third straight year our state employees will see an increase in their paychecks.

Whether it is the State Trooper patrolling our highways or a social worker rescuing an abused child, we can be proud to have so many dedicated men and women who are giving their best to the people of Alabama.

And speaking of giving one’s best, please join me in congratulating the team at the Department of HumanResources, led by our dedicated Commissioner Nancy Buckner, for leading the nation two years in a row inplacing foster children in a permanent, loving home. It’s one thing to talk about helping a child; it’s anotherthing to actually do it.

Folks, I’d like to take this opportunity to recognize all the members of the Ivey Administration – let’s let themknow how much we appreciate their efforts and what they do everyday for our state.

As we all know, 2019 was an especially difficult year for those who wear a badge.
Seven members of the Alabama Law Enforcement community were killed in the line of duty.

These heroes exhibited the best virtues of our state – they were selfless, brave, dedicated and, in the end, willing to sacrifice their lives for all of us.

Representing these families, we have Mrs. Joanne Williams, the widow of Lowndes County Sheriff Big John Williams, with us tonight.

Mrs. Williams, thank you for being here.

Please join me as we observe a moment of silence to remember all those who died in the greatest act of selfless service to the people of Alabama.

And All of God’s people say, “Amen!”

Obviously, one of our most basic responsibilities of government is ensuring that we have a robust sector of public safety.

I’m proud to report that under the solid leadership of Secretary Hal Taylor, the Alabama Law EnforcementAgency has increased protection on our state’s roads and waterways.

For too long, we were operating on a bare-bones structure that increased delays in waiting for help on the side of the road and limited the number of highway patrol officers whose job is to keep us safe.

This has been a top focus of my administration and with your help, we have increased the number of Troopers from 365 to 435, a net increase of 19%! We have almost doubled our marine officers from 24 to 42! My budget will include additional funding to hire and train 50 additional sworn officers.

Since coming into office, I have made no secret of the fact that one of the most critical issues we face — one that will affect every single Alabamian — is the upcoming Census in March. 2020 will be a make or break year for our state.

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of what a full and accurate count in the 2020 Census means for ourState. These numbers have a direct impact on our state’s representation in the U.S. House of Representatives aswell as on the billions of dollars in federal funding…that’s billions with a “b”…that affect schools, communityprograms, health care, and job opportunities for our state.

Thanks to the leadership of ADECA Director Kenneth Boswell and his team, we are going all out to get everyone to be all in.

It is ever so important for every Alabamian to join me in saying “I Count” by completing a census form!Other important areas that are being worked on daily by my Administration:

Access to broadband; it is a top priority to continue increasing the availability of high-speed Internet throughout the state, especially in rural Alabama, through the Broadband Accessibility Fund.

While state government can’t do it alone— and we are counting on the help of our partners in the private sector— my budget will continue to provide funding to connect as many people as possible during the coming years.

Currently, some 220,000 Alabamians do not have any wired Internet providers where they live. Our efforts will not end until every Alabamian has access through high speed broadband.

Much as Governor Kilby increased funding in public health one hundred years ago, my budget will make a substantial investment in the area of health care… both rural health and mental health as well.

Another sign of our commitment to improving the lives of those who live in rural Alabama is my full support for a pilot program to incentivize primary care physicians and nurse practitioners to establish services in medically underserved areas.

I am calling on the Legislature to support my rural health care initiatives which, among other things, will help improve basic primary care in many deserving communities. By encouraging these medical professionals to build a practice in these areas, we can literally transform many small towns throughout the state.

And thanks to the innovative leadership being provided by Mental Health Commissioner Lynn Beshear and her team, I am also calling on the Legislature to provide funding to build three new crisis centers in the state. When open and fully staffed, these centers will become a safe haven for people facing mental health challenges; here, they can be stabilized and treated without being sent to a jail or the hospital.

Special thanks go to House Majority Leader Ledbetter and the members from both parties and both chambers who have been working with him to lead the charge to put additional emphasis on this important area of public service.

I am also proud that our Mental Health Department is partnering with the Department of Education to ensure weare promoting “Whole Child Wellness.”

The fact is…our students are with us for at least 8 hours a day and many come from a home-life that few of us can imagine. Our students are increasingly dealing with challenges and pressure for which most teachers aren’ttrained or prepared to deal with; these young people need our help and we are going to do our part.

As the Members of the Legislature begin this upcoming session, let me close my remarks tonight with a reminder, a challenge and a promise.

First the reminder:
We are starting our new century enjoying the best economy our state has ever had. Ever!

Thanks to the hard work of Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield and his team — as well as Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington and his folks — these are unquestionably the best of times.

We have the lowest unemployment rate in our 200-year history at 2.7 percent.
More than 82,000 of our fellow citizens are working today than were working just a year ago.

At the beginning of last year, economists predicted we would gain 27,000 jobs in 2019. In true Alabama fashion, our economy beat those expectations by gaining nearly 77,000 jobs! That, too, is a record for our state!

And fewer people are living in poverty than ever before.

Y’all, these results don’t just happen because we want them to. They are happening because we are workingtogether, more united than ever before.

Even so, there are some 60,000 Alabamians seeking employment opportunities. Still others are hoping to climb the next step up the economic ladder.

I say to everyone across our state who is still climbing – we will not leave you behind.

My reminder is that every challenge is an opportunity waiting for action. And while we are enjoying the best of times — and my budgets and these requests reflect that — we must prepare for a changing environment — one beyond our control — that recognizes times won’t always be this good.

To that end, here is my challenge.

For years, going back to 1999 when Governor Siegelman was promoting an Alabama lottery, we’ve beenhearing that expanding gaming in some form, perhaps a lottery — or maybe a compact with our Native American neighbors — would solve all our problems and provide money for all sorts of good ideas.

Keep in mind, the last time the Legislature gave the voters had an opportunity to cast their vote, the so-called“education lottery” was voted down by the people of Alabama by 54 to 46 percent. It wasn’t even close.

Since then we’ve heard promises of hundreds of millions of dollars — now we are up to a billion dollars — that would be available if the Legislature would give the people another opportunity to vote on a lottery or if I would negotiate a compact… If it were only that simple.

Many of our legislators were not even serving the last time a Governor had to declare our budgets in proration, making sweeping, across-the-board cuts. But I remember those times and let me tell you, we do not want to go back there.

That is why I will be signing an Executive Order to establish a small working group of some of Alabama’s mostdistinguished citizens, to begin working, to gather all the facts on how much money we could really gain if some form of gaming expansion occurred. Vetting on these individuals is already underway and I will be releasing these names in the coming days.

Like you, I’m fully aware that the four states which border us all have some form of gaming.

And neither you nor I are naïve enough to believe that we’re benefitting in any way when our people cross thestate line to bet on a game of chance.

While I, personally, have never believed we should fund essential state services on such an unstable source of funding, I have always maintained that the people of Alabama should have the final say on whether or not we are going down this path.

So that, my friends, is what this working Group will be charged to get – the facts!

Once they have done so — I will bring these facts to the 140 members of the Legislature and the people of Alabama. And we will then, once and for all, be in a position to determine whether or not this is a path we want to pursue.

Ultimately, my pledge would be for the people of Alabama to have the final say. But first, we must get the facts and understand what they mean.

My challenge to the Legislature is: give us some time to get the facts and then, together, we will give the people of Alabama the information they need to make the most informed decision possible.

As you know, when we have achieved great success in the past, it was only accomplished through a bipartisan effort and many months of advocacy to do what is in the best interest for the people of our state.

Finally, my promise.

Throughout my service as governor, I have pledged to level with you and be a governor who doesn’t shrinkfrom responsibility just because it is hard.

I promise you this – I’m going to do all I can to help lead our state to solve tough problems and realize our untapped potential. Serving as your governor has been the utmost honor and privilege of my life.

You see, I truly believe this is our moment… as we step confidently into our third century… to do the thingsthat need to be done, for both today and in the years to come.

And, ladies and gentlemen, I cannot do this without your help, your partnership and your support. Together,let’s make this moment count.

May God continue to bless you and the great state of Alabama.

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

2 hours ago

Tuberville on China, coronavirus: ‘We’ve got to worry about Alabama and this country’ right now

Former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville is taking a different stance on China than his Republican primary runoff competitor, former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

In an appearance on Talk 99.5’s “Matt and Aunie Show” Thursday morning, Tuberville was asked about what he thought was happening with China.

He responded, “Well, we can’t worry about China right now. We’ve gotta worry about Alabama and this country.”

Experts agree that the novel coronavirus originated somewhere around the city of Wuhan in China, and the country spent several weeks trying to obscure the extent of the outbreak. There have since been significant indications that the death toll in China is higher than the country is publicly reporting.

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Sessions has called for an extensive investigation into the communist government that runs China, and blasted the current leadership there, calling it an “evil regime.”

“You know, I hear about all these people hollering for investigations and we always investigate,” commented Tuberville on Thursday, before later adding, “[Congressional committees] investigate and nothing ever comes of it, so right now we’ve gotta worry about this country. ‘Cause right now we’re in trouble.”

In tweets responding to the Tuberville interview, Sessions said, “China’s where the virus is from, and their deliberate lies hid the danger & resulted in a pandemic that never should’ve happened! We must take on China NOW and WIN, not run scared like Tommy Tuberville!”

Later in the interview, Tuberville praised President Donald Trump’s efforts to shift the United States’ economic relationship to China.

“They’re gonna be knocked to their knees, and they should be,” the former coach said.

Paul Shashy, Tuberville’s campaign manager, said in a statement to Yellowhammer News, “If Jeff Sessions was too afraid to stand up to Robert Mueller, how can we ever expect him to stand up to China? Like President Trump, Coach Tuberville believes we should focus all of our resources on ending the Coronavirus pandemic, fixing our economy, and helping the Alabamians who need help now. Once that’s done, he’ll stand with the president to hold the Chinese fully accountable, unlike Jeff Sessions, who voted with Ted Kennedy and John Kerry to reward China with permanent trade status.”

Tuberville and Sessions will face each other at the ballot box on July 14 in the Republican primary runoff.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

3 hours ago

Ivey issues ‘stay-at-home’ order for the state of Alabama effective Saturday afternoon

MONTGOMERY – Governor Kay Ivey has issued a “stay-at-home” order for the state of Alabama as coronavirus (COVID-19) cases and deaths continue to rise.

The order is effective beginning Saturday, April 4, at 5:00 p.m. and will expire Thursday, April 30, 2020 at 5:00 p.m. CT.

Exceptions apply for essential activities and businesses.

The order can be read here.

An updated supplemental State of Emergency can be read here.

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Ivey made the announcement at a press conference Friday at 4:00 p.m. CT alongside State Health Officer Scott Harris, Attorney General Steve Marshall and the Reverend Cromwell A. Handy of Montgomery’s Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. Reporters were able to attend and ask questions live afterwards while following social distancing guidelines.

In a statement, Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth said he supports the stay-at-home order.

“I agree with Gov. Ivey’s decision to issue a stay-at-home order throughout Alabama, and though many may find it inconvenient, her action is the best method of combatting and controlling the spread of COVID-19 in our cities, towns, and communities,” he said.

“Alabamians have always shown courage in a crisis, so at this critical time, the best way we can stand together is by staying apart,” Ainsworth concluded.

Ainsworth’s full statement can be read here.

Ivey said in her remarks that it became obvious to her Thursday afternoon that more must be done to flatten the curve.

The governor advised she was “convinced our previous efforts to reduce social interaction [had not been enough].”

“That’s why we are taking this more drastic step,” she added.

Ivey cited the jump in confirmed cases the state experienced Thursday, along with location data made available by news outlets, as sources of information she found relevant in making her decision.

“April stands to be very tough, and potentially very deadly,” warned Ivey.

The governor said that Alabama should expect a surge in hospitalizations that she estimates will peak in 2-3 weeks.

Harris noted the the models projecting caseload change every day.

Marshall said that intentionally violating the new order is a class-c misdemeanor.

Marshall urged law enforcement officers around the state to practice restraint in enforcing the order, only using criminal action if someone was endangering others.

This story is breaking and will be updated.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

4 hours ago

Alabama’s budgets will face real issues post-coronavirus

Every American is fixated on the current coronavirus pandemic. It dominates local and national news, daily talk radio and Alabama’s major newspapers three days a week.

The Alabama political press is busy using this to accuse Governor Kay Ivey of wanting Alabamians to die because she hasn’t issued a “shelter-in-place” order. To their credit, usually, it’s Alabama’s budget cuts, low taxes, taxes on food, failure to expand Medicaid or abortion bans that are being used as an implement of murder by their target of the day, so give them credit for creativity.

If we as a state look past this healthcare issue and look at the damage it is already doing to the state’s economy, we will see a bunch of major issues on the horizon.

When State Senator Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) appeared on WVNN Friday morning, he talked about budgeting issues that will definitely be of major concern when the state is back open for business and the legislature resumes its budgeting process.

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Orr, who has chaired both the General Fund and Education Trust Fund committees, said that the next legislative session will be a hard one with hard fiscal choices.

Planned pay raises for teachers and other state employees are gone. Orr noted that the budgets that are passed will be “level-funding” — or close to it — and hard choices will have to be made.

But that “pain” may be short-term, not that the reverberation of the coronavirus pandemic won’t last for years. There could be long-term issues as well.

The Retirement System of Alabama has long been a hot-button in this state.

Orr sounded the alarm on the viability of the system, saying, “The RSA is among, if not the most, highly exposed defined benefit, public defined benefit plan in the country to equities or to the stock market.”

He noted, “When the stock market has tanked 30 plus percent, RSA feels a much larger hit than other retirement funds. It’s going to be a concern.”

My takeaway:

With a defined benefit payout and few opportunities to increase revenue. the actuarial tables will take a beating as the stock market slides.

Most expect the market to rebound eventually, but Orr has been talking about the RSA’s vulnerabilities for years. And this will not help.

Even if you aren’t a beneficiary of the Retirement System of Alabama, you will still feel the impact if its finances continue to head south. Orr warned of a stark reality where “taxpayers will be ending up having to pay more for retirement for all the government employees.”

Obviously, no one is thinking about this right now, but we will be revisiting this in the very near future and the impact of this could go on for a very long time.

Listen:

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 am weekdays on WVNN.

4 hours ago

Survey: 50% of small businesses cannot survive more than two months of coronavirus restrictions

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Research Center on Friday released its latest survey detailing the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on small businesses across the country.

The survey was conducted March 30 and utilized a random sampling of the organization’s 300,000 members. This garnered 1,172 usable responses, all small employers with 1-465 employees.

Unfortunately — but also unsurprisingly, the survey showed continued overall deterioration in the small business sector since the NFIB’s previous similar survey, which was conducted on March 20. A release from NFIB on Friday stated, “The severity of the outbreak and regulatory measures that cities and states are taking to control it are having a devastating impact on small businesses.”

In the latest survey, 92% of small employers said they are negatively impacted by the pandemic, up from 76% saying the same just 10 days prior.

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The latest survey also showed 3% of small employees answering that they are positively impacted by the coronavirus outbreak. NFIB explained that these select firms are likely experiencing stronger sales due to a sharp rise in demand for certain products, goods and services. That effect will likely wane in the coming weeks as consumers feel more secure about their personal supply levels, NFIB added.

State-specific survey data was unavailable, but NFIB Alabama State Director Rosemary Elebash said in a statement, “Without a doubt, the coronavirus has taken a tremendous toll on Alabama’s small businesses. Our members are determined to get through this, and they’re working to apply for Paycheck Protection Program loans and other forms of financial relief so they can avoid layoffs and having to close the doors for good.”

Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth (R-AL) noted, “We have organized an Emergency Small Business Task Force to identify problems our businesses are facing during this difficult time. We need to bring clarity to issues and government orders that are often confusing and to effectively communicate solutions and direct business owners to resources that can help. NFIB is an indispensable member helping to guide this task force.”

RELATED: State Rep. Whitt on coronavirus restrictions: ‘Our small businesses are getting destroyed’

Among negatively impacted small employers in the NFIB survey, 80% reported slower sales, 31% reported experiencing supply chain disruptions and 23% reported concerns over sick employees.

One other major point in the survey pertained to how long can small businesses can continue to operate under current conditions.

With the pandemic projected to continue for weeks, it is especially concerning that approximately half of small employers said they can survive for no more than two months. About 15% of small employers responded that they cannot last even another month.

Mitigation is ongoing, however. Due to escalating financial stress on the sector, more small businesses are now talking with their bank about financing needs than was the case 10 days ago. Approximately 29% of small employers have talked with someone at their bank or with the Small Business Administration (SBA) about finance options, and another 23% are planning to do so soon. A total of 38% of small employers have not, and do not, intend to do so, per NFIB’s survey.

Read the full survey here.

RELATED: University of Alabama program helps connect small businesses with federal relief funds

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

5 hours ago

Alabama automakers lend a helping hand in COVID-19 battle

Alabama automakers are stepping in to aid their communities in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, including support of crucial testing services and production of protective face shields for healthcare workers.

Toyota’s Huntsville engine factory is producing 7,500 protective face shields for local hospitals.

In addition, the plant has donated 160 safety glasses to local hospitals, along with $25,000 to the United Way of Madison County to support COVID-19 relief efforts.

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“With our plant idled, Toyota Alabama is eager to contribute our expertise and know-how to help quickly bring to market the equipment needed to combat COVID-19,” the company said in a statement today.

Similar efforts are also happening at Toyota facilities nationwide.

Other Alabama automakers are offering community support as well.

Hyundai Motor America and its Hyundai Hope On Wheels program have donated $200,000 to the University of Alabama at Birmingham to help expand community testing efforts.

The grant will support the existing drive-through testing site in downtown Birmingham and help other sites in Jefferson County provide much-needed screening, said UAB Medicine CEO Will Ferniany.

“Support like this gift from Hyundai Hope On Wheels helps our frontline medical staff understand that they are not alone in this fight,” he said. “This grant will help further UAB’s commitment to providing access to communitywide testing.”

The grant will also be used to expand access for pediatric-specific testing services. About 20 percent of the downtown testing site’s patient population is age 25 and under, and officials from UAB Medicine, the UAB Department of Pediatrics and Children’s of Alabama hope to continue to expand testing for this group.

Nationwide, Hyundai is donating $2.2 million to support drive-thru testing centers at 11 children’s hospitals throughout the U.S.

Hyundai Hope on Wheels supports families facing pediatric cancer, and the company said the pandemic is a particular risk to children with cancer who have compromised immune systems.

Hyundai operates an auto assembly plant in Montgomery, which has been idled amid the outbreak, as have other auto assembly plants in the state.

Honda’s plants across the U.S. are also helping out during the crisis, including its factory in Talladega County.

Honda has pledged $1 million to food banks and meal programs across North America. Plants also are donating equipment, including N95 face masks, to healthcare providers, deploying 3-D printers to manufacture visors for face shields and investigating ways to partner with other companies in producing equipment.

In Tuscaloosa County, the Mercedes-Benz plant has donated N100 reusable filters,  protective suits and other supplies to local hospitals, as well as $5,000 to the DCH Foundation to help with the hospital’s curbside testing process.

Mercedes is also working with the Alabama Department of Commerce on ways the company or its supplier network can support making parts for the medical industry, and it is providing expertise to other manufacturers that are producing healthcare supplies.

The automaker also hosted a LifeSouth community blood drive that received about 95 donors.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)