1 month ago

Read: Governor Kay Ivey’s full 2021 State of the State Address

Governor Kay Ivey on Tuesday evening delivered her 2021 State of the State Address.

The address was delivered virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

You can read Ivey’s remarks as prepared as follows:

My Fellow Alabamians:

I am speaking to you tonight just outside the old House Chamber in the Alabama State Capitol. Previously, other governors and I have used that historic chamber to kick off a Joint Session of the Alabama Legislature for the State of the State address.

Tonight, however, is different, just like 2020 was different from every other year in memory. Instead of addressing the 140 members of the Legislature in person, the Capitol building is empty tonight.

Because of COVID-19, our legislators have appropriately taken the added precaution of social distancing in their respective chambers as they prepare for the formal start to their Regular Session.

To the men and women of the Legislature, let me begin with a word of heartfelt thanks.

Thank you for working with my Administration and me as, together, we have looked for good ideas and solutions to the challenges and demands of this past year.

And, I know I speak for every elected leader throughout the state when I say we all owe the people of Alabama a debt of gratitude for their willingness to work with us as we have navigated one of the most challenging years in our state’s history.

Make no mistake, this time last year things were different…much different.

At 2.7 percent, Alabama had the lowest unemployment rate in our state’s history. We were seeing economic prosperity all around and, we were dealing with the wonderful problem of more jobs than people to fill them. During the past 12 months, Alabama – like the rest of the country – had no choice but to deal with one giant challenge after another.

In addition to social unrest and a polarizing national election, we also had eight federal disaster and emergency declarations in the state, including a hurricane, a tropical storm and floods from one end of the state to the other. So, make no mistake, there were no tears shed when we bid goodbye to 2020 a month ago.

While the year tested both our patience and perseverance, it never once tested our faith.

Despite all that was thrown at us, Alabamians remained grounded and kept our resolve. You never gave up.

And while COVID-19 has proven to be a worthy adversary with no regard for class, race or gender, the disease has shown us just how much more we can accomplish if we work together.

Many small businesses, retailers and restaurant owners utilized curbside service to keep their doors open, ensuring their employees could continue receiving a paycheck and their customers could be served in a safe way.

Also, our health care workers and first responders proved their mettle as they helped fight the virus and keep us safe.

Y’all, none of this has been easy.

Whether it was delaying an election, a wedding or a funeral…or wearing a mask and practicing social distancing…this disease created obstacles we all had to overcome.

But it is also revealed the “Angels Among Us,” as my friend Randy Owen and the Band ALABAMA would remind us back in 1993, a song written for the challenges of a different time, nevertheless, highlighting the beauty of neighbors helping neighbors even as we all get through life’s darkest moments.

One of those dark moments came just last week…with the deadly tornado that hit Fultondale and Center Point. We continue to pray for those who lost so much and renew our pledge that we will be with them as they pick up the pieces and start to rebuild.

While there are too many people to thank tonight, I would be remiss if I didn’t make one exception by singling out the tireless efforts of our state health officer, Dr. Scott Harris.

There is no question that there are many things we would do differently if only given the chance. Dr. Harris has been a dedicated professional since day one and he and his team’s top priority has always been to do what is in the best interest of all the people of our state.

While we are still living in a challenging year, I can report with confidence that things are getting better! As the supply of vaccine increases and is in more arms, the end of COVID-19 is closer than ever before.

My fellow Alabamians, my prayer – and our goals – for 2021, is not just to get back to where we were. Instead, I want us to look ahead with confidence toward where we aspire to be.

It’s time to set big goals and lay out a bold vision for the year ahead.

The foundation for this agenda begins with a respectful, honest relationship with this Legislature. I have found it helpful to shoot straight, treat everyone with respect and establish our priorities with a realistic timeline for what is possible and what is not.

We have also ended a crazy year by maintaining all functions of state government without exception. Moreover, there was no reason to even mention “proration,” or reducing state services.

Thanks to the online sales tax that was implemented in 2017, our state’s receipts remain in the black despite an extremely challenging year for retail. And instead of talking about raising taxes, one of the first bills I want the Legislature to pass is a measure that will ensure everyone who received CARES Act dollars will not pay one penny in state income taxes on that relief.

After all, these monies were meant to tide people over until the economy recovered; it was never meant as an opportunity to grow the state’s bank account.

Another bill that is a top priority is to renew our economic development incentives that we have used for years to build such a strong, diverse economy. The pipeline of new companies looking to come to Alabama is full, and these tax credits help ensure we are competitive enough to get them.

I am also grateful the Legislature is poised to enact legislation that will prevent our business and medical communities from frivolous lawsuits that might come because of COVID-19. They and our legal community worked to make this happen.

These are just the first of three priority bills that I hope the Legislature will send to me within the first couple weeks of this new session. When they do, I’ll be sure to sign them into law without hesitation.

Ladies and gentlemen, compare this with the discord and division of what we have seen coming from our Nation’s Capital. Sadly, the contrast is striking.

I’d like to again offer my sincere thanks to the members of the Legislature for designating how we were going to get $1.8 billion of Federal CARES Act money into the hands of those who needed it the most.

I’m also proud of all the departments in my Administration for how they responded to the pandemic.

For example, the finance department worked within the parameters of the legislation to make sure every penny was spent wisely.

And whether it was our initial “Revive Alabama” small business grant program that got more than $96 million to nearly 8,000 small business owners, or the Revive-Plus program a few months later, which approved close to 11,000 applications and distributed more than $198 million, our mission was clear and simple… this money never belonged to the state, it always belonged to the people of Alabama.

I am especially proud that these grants went to 941 veteran-owned businesses and more than 4,100 minority- owned businesses. I’m also grateful we found ways to help our state’s non-profits, faith-based entities, agribusiness and other groups. We were also able to replace critical funding into our state’s unemployment insurance trust fund in order to minimize the impact on employer payroll taxes as much as possible.

While 2020 presented a host of challenges, the year also gave us opportunities to do some big things such as work with the Legislature to pass the Public School and College Authority Bond.

This $1.25 billion investment sent money to every K-12 school system, and to all of our two- and four-year colleges.
The proceeds of this bond will be transformational for years to come.

Whether it was assisting Tallassee High School replace a 92-year-old building or UAB’s new genomics facility or a new medical school at the University of South Alabama, these projects – and others – will have a lasting impact on future generations of Alabamians.

Few areas were more challenged in 2020 than our education system. In fact, our teachers and students were among the first who were affected by COVID-19.

Last March, when we entered a state of emergency, we announced our schools would be closed to in-person instruction until we could wrap our arms around what was happening. Little did we know the remainder of the school year – and the current one –would be challenged.

Utilizing CARES Act dollars, we invested more than $434 million into our classrooms with $70 million going directly to local systems for the purpose of limiting the spread of COVID-19 in our schools.

Another program we championed was what we called ABC for Students where we allocated $50 million for low income families to receive internet through this current school year for remote learning.

While many parents, students and teachers struggled through this form of instruction, they all deserve praise for having the determination and patience to keep working to get it right.

As a result, my budget proposes a two percent pay increase as a way to express our state’s gratitude to our teachers who rose to the challenge during an unprecedented time for our state.

I will also recommend that our state employees receive this same increase. As the old saying goes “the time is always right to do what is right,” and we should express our thanks for these dedicated public servants who keep our state running.

Moving forward, we will continue to emphasize what we know works – a focus on our nationally-recognized Pre-K program, a solid foundation of reading and STEM education, while also providing teachers with the tools they need to teach our students.

I continue to believe that our students need to get back to the classroom as soon as possible. Across the board remote learning was always intended to be temporary. Take it from a former economics teacher, nothing replaces in-person instruction and, unfortunately, during COVID-19, many students have fallen behind.

Catching our students up won’t happen overnight or during the traditional school hours.

As such, I am urging all our schools to partner with community organizations in your local area; this will be more important than ever before to be innovative and create new opportunities for summer and after school programs.
Another place where COVID-19 exposed a weak link in our state’s infrastructure was in the area of broadband and internet connectivity.

Thankfully, the Legislature is already committed to working to address this deficiency, and I look forward to continuing to partner with them to assist internet providers to extend service for the underserved areas of our state.

And just last week, I partnered with C-Spire for their $500 million dollar investment in Alabama over the next three years. This investment will provide broadband to one hundred thousand homes and businesses in our state and create 250 jobs.

These investments and the commitment of elected leaders, will make great headway in this critical area of infrastructure.

Last year, we funded – and will soon open by May 2021 – three new crisis centers to serve as a safe place for those needing mental health services. Established along the I-65 corridor in Mobile, Montgomery and Huntsville, these centers were meant to serve as pilot programs with the intention of expanding into more communities as soon as possible. With strong leadership in the Department and in partnership with the Legislature, we are providing a wide range of new tools to divert individuals from hospital emergency rooms and local jails.

Tonight, I’m pleased to propose a $46 million investment to expand 96 beds at the Taylor Hardin facility in Tuscaloosa and another $6 million for an additional crisis diversion center.

Building upon the personal commitment of Governor Lurleen Wallace, my Administration will maintain our commitment to provide critical evaluation and treatment of our most vulnerable population regardless of their present circumstances.
A year ago, Alabama’s record low unemployment rate was 2.7 percent. However, that number grew to 13.3 percent by April 2020.

By December, our unemployment rate was back down to 3.9%, the lowest since the pandemic began. The economic foundation we have built in Alabama over the past several years has proven to be solid, making our economic recovery a key reason why I am so optimistic for the future.

With help from the Department of Commerce, our businesses showed resiliency and flexibility as many manufacturers pivoted to make face masks and PPE in the early days of the pandemic. Now, Alabama companies are making the vials for the vaccine and expanding operations within the state to provide masks nationwide.

There is reason for continued hope in our economic growth. One sector of our economy, Alabama’s auto industry, hasn’t been slowed by the pandemic.

In 2021, Mazda Toyota in Huntsville will hit an important milestone of hiring around 3,000 production workers, and their suppliers are hiring thousands more.

Hyundai is also making a major investment this year at its Montgomery facility to introduce two new models to its Alabama production lineup – the Santa Cruz crossover and the Tucson SUV.

Honda is launching the mass production of the next-generation Ridgeline pickup, and Mercedes-Benz is now ramping up to build two new electric vehicles at its plant in Vance, propelling continued growth in the automotive supply chain in communities such as Jasper, Muscle Shoals, Greenville and Alex City.

Last year, I worked closely with the Legislature and strong corporate partners to launch a commission focusing on entrepreneurship and innovation called “Innovate Alabama,” which is designed to help both individuals and startup companies. Special thanks goes to Dr. Condoleezza Rice, an Alabama native, who serves as chair of the Innovate Alabama Advisory Committee.

Alabama has always been at the forefront of developing new technologies to make our country and world a better place but, now, we are engaging our state’s trailblazers to come up with new ideas and policies that will support entrepreneurship, economic development and jobs for the future.

When I became governor in April of 2017, I threw my support behind an effort to rebuild our state’s infrastructure…our roads, bridges, and even our State Port needed significant upgrades.

On my second day on the job, I publicly supported the Legislature’s efforts now known as “Rebuild Alabama.” My fellow citizens, if you are traveling down a road or highway and see a blue sign that says “Another project to Rebuild Alabama,” that is proof of your tax dollars being spent wisely and transparently to improve safety, increase efficiency and support commerce.

In the first year of this program, Alabama invested over 127 million new dollars in Cherokee, Limestone, Madison, Autauga and Tuscaloosa counties on projects to provide interstate connectivity and much needed repairs.
Additionally, 27 city and county projects were announced just last year. This is on top of other local projects and ongoing repairs all over the state.

Friends, it doesn’t stop there. Tonight, I’m proud to announce we are moving forward with a project that other governors have talked about but, until now, no one has been able to do. Later this year, we’re going to turn the shovel on a long discussed four-lane Highway 43 from Thomasville to Tuscaloosa.

This will provide interstate connectivity and economic development opportunities for many rural counties in Alabama’s Black Belt between the cities of Mobile and Tuscaloosa.

I am also pleased to announce plans to connect two more rural counties with four-lane access in Geneva and Fayette counties – and plans for others are under development.

Folks, our roads are the arteries of Alabama’s commerce. These projects are just a few of the many that we’ll use to open doors of opportunity to all our people.

We all know that we can’t have safe roads without having State Troopers patrolling them. In 2020, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency was able to recruit, train and graduate 123 new troopers. They have also added sworn personnel to our waterways and Gulf Coast.

I would be remiss in not acknowledging the challenges our men and women in blue face every day and thank them for their service and sacrifice they make to keep us safe. We can never say thank you enough.

One of the most critical issues facing our state is the dire condition of our prisons.

It is no secret that the Department of Corrections has faced significant challenges that are a result of decades of neglect. Resolving these require a multi-faceted strategy and immediate action. The cornerstone of our ongoing efforts is the Alabama Prison Program – a bold undertaking to replace the state’s aging and failing prison infrastructure with safe, new, sustainable and affordable men’s prisons.

I have signed a lease on the first two of these prisons – to be located in Escambia and Elmore counties – and I am pleased to say that we soon will complete our negotiations with the developers whose proposals qualified them to construct new prisons. Not only will these modern facilities improve prison conditions and safety for both Alabama’s correctional staff and inmates, they will also be designed to accommodate inmate rehabilitation. Rehabilitated inmates are much less likely to reoffend and much more likely to become productive, contributing members of society when they are released. It is incumbent upon all of us to make this investment which will, over time, help make all our communities, and all of us, safer.

We will also continue to move forward with criminal justice reforms, and I am grateful to have the support of so many in the Legislature as we seek to improve our criminal justice laws.

Since 1999, over 180 gambling bills have been introduced in the Alabama Legislature. However, you’ve not had a chance to make your voice heard.

Last year, I asked the people of Alabama to trust me to gather all the facts on what has been endlessly debated in our state but never adopted.

My first action was to establish a working group of some of Alabama’s most distinguished citizens to present us the facts so we can make the most informed decision possible.

I’m proud of the work of this group, and they have delivered a comprehensive analysis of both the benefits and drawbacks of expanded gambling.

I’ve never been an out-front champion on this issue, but I have always believed that the people of Alabama should have the final say.

If established in an accountable and transparent manner, good can come from this effort. The current system only costs the state money and you, the people, don’t benefit in any way.

I am confident the Legislature will be thoughtful and deliberate as they debate this issue. But let me be absolutely clear, this must be a transparent process – with no deals being cut under the table.

If something does not pass the smell test, I’ll sure let you know.

I look forward to working with the men and women of the House and Senate to give Alabamians an opportunity to decide, once and for all, if a different approach to gambling is in the best interest of our state.

As I reflect on all that happened during this past year, one moment that rises above the rest was the honor and privilege our state extended to the late Congressman John Lewis. Although he represented Atlanta in Congress, this Pike County native never forgot where he came from. With his passing, he was given the distinct honor of being the first African American to lie in repose in our State Capitol.

After marching across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma as a young man, John Lewis went on to become a legendary leader for civil rights alongside other giants of the movement like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth.

To honor his final wishes in this way was simply the proper thing to do. It was incredibly moving to see people of all races, religions and political parties stand in line for hours to pay homage to, as he called himself, the “boy from Troy.”

To quote John Lewis, “Every generation leaves behind a legacy. What that legacy will be is determined by the people of that generation.”

I hope that as Alabama continues to make progress, we remember the lessons of history.

We must consider our challenges ahead as more than momentary struggles and view them in the lenses of our legacy. Remember, there is nothing we cannot achieve when we work together.

My fellow Alabamians, good night. May God continue to bless each of you and the great state of Alabama.

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

1 hour ago

Schoolyard Roots growing stronger, smarter kids in Alabama

When kids participate in the life of a garden, they see the complete cycle of growing food, cooking and preparing it to eat. School gardens are exciting places for kids to learn basic academic subjects, too.

The Tuscaloosa community came together more than 10 years ago to develop a garden-based learning program called the Druid City Garden project, now called Schoolyard Roots.

Schoolyard Roots employs a full-time teaching staff that provides garden lessons for students, as well as professional development training for teachers. The school gardens provide an outdoor experience rare to many students. They are more likely to make healthy choices and try new foods. Students gain a sense of responsibility, to collaborate and work together as a team.

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“When we see a child’s health and education improve, we know that we’re not only investing in that child’s life today – we’re helping them build a better future,” said Nicole Gelb Dugat, interim executive director. “Schoolyard Roots builds community through food. By increasing access to fresh, locally grown produce, we empower our community to make healthy and sustainable food choices.”

In March 2020, the impact of COVID-19 significantly affected the teaching community. Almost immediately, the Schoolyard Roots team began distributing produce from its gardens directly to local families. By the end of last year, the program had distributed more than 750 pounds of fresh garden vegetables to the community.

“We stewarded our gardens as fresh-air sanctuaries, where children and adults could relax, refocus and reconnect,” said Dugat. “Through it all, we shared vegetables and flowers. We cultivated moments of peace and learned together. We could not have done any of it without our incredible community of supporters.”

They found hope and inspiration in the small miracle of seeds planted by the students. Gardens bring joy, peace and courage in times of struggle. And gardens remind us to have hope for new growth and what is to come.

Schoolyard Roots partners with Tuscaloosa-area elementary schools to bring learning to life through teaching gardens. The nonprofit works in 11 elementary schools across Tuscaloosa County.

Its mission is to build healthy communities through food with the Gardens 2 Schools program.

Gardens support and encourage healthful eating as a key component of children’s physical wellbeing, which can aid their academic and social success, too. The garden is woven through many aspects of a school’s curriculum and adapted for different grade levels.

“The Gardens 2 Schools program cultivates curiosity,” Dugat said. “The program teaches the students how to work together (and) learn self-reliability and compassion.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 hours ago

Has Washington’s stimulus measures saved our economy?

Congress is expected to soon pass President Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus package, the fourth major response to the pandemic. Did these measures save our economy from a protracted recession?

Our initial response might be yes because of last spring’s economic free-fall. The stock market declined 20%. Unemployment jumped from 3.5% in February to 14.8% in April, the highest level since the Great Depression. GDP fell 10% in the second quarter.

The economy stopped collapsing and began regaining ground. The stock market hit new record highs. Unemployment fell to 6.3% in January and inflation-adjusted GDP in the fourth quarter of 2020 was within 2% of the 2019 level. Post hoc ergo prompter hoc, however, is a logical fallacy.

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Macroeconomists disagree over whether government spending can lift an economy out of recession. Keynesians, following John Maynard Keynes’ analysis of the Great Depression, see a role for government stabilization. Austrians in the tradition of Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek argue that government often causes recessions. New classical analysis has blown many holes in Keynesian theories.

Regardless of the efficacy of a fiscal stimulus, our economy may not have faced a recession in 2020. The COVID-19 slump arguably resembled an off-season shutdown in a resort community more than a recession. Except that the pandemic shutdown was unexpected while seasonal closures are planned.

The economy could have been expected to bounce back on its own if the business closure and stay-at-home orders did not last too long. And this seemingly happened during the summer and fall.

How can we assess the stimulus spending? The Payroll Protection Plan and augmented unemployment likely kept some persons employed and softened the financial blow for idled workers. These programs could also be viewed as compensation owed by the government for business closure orders, not a stimulus. Personal saving has risen sharply, so many households’ stimulus checks produced little spending.

Unemployment programs have been beset by fraud. The Foundation for Government Accountability estimates that fraudulent schemes siphoned off $36 billion, more than the $26 billion in unemployment compensation paid out in all of 2019. Do Keynesians think fraud is a fiscal stimulus?

One trillion stimulus dollars were unspent as of January 2021. While some Republicans argued that we should spend this money before approving President Biden’s proposal, the unspent money was in the process of being spent. Still, money not yet spent did not stimulate the economy in 2020.

Proponents of fiscal stimulus warned that the economy would sputter without a fall stimulus. One forecast warned of a five percentage point increase in unemployment and 5% decline in GDP. The House and Senate did not agree on an encore to the CARES Act until December. And yet unemployment fell and GDP grew in the fourth quarter.

Even if some spending helped in 2020, the current stimulus package is almost certainly unnecessary. The Congressional Budget Office was already expecting growth to recover “rapidly,” with GDP surpassing the pre-pandemic level by mid-year and unemployment returning to its prior level by early 2022. For comparison, after the Great Recession unemployment did not reach its 2007 level until 2016.

President Biden’s package includes $500 billion to stabilize state budgets. States operate under balanced budget rules, so revenue declines due to the pandemic would trigger spending cuts potentially slowing the recovery. The $500 billion was based on an 8% decline in state revenues; the Wall Street Journal reports that revenues will be down only 1.6%.

Whatever the verdict on the stimulus spending, it worsened the national debt by about $3 trillion. The long-term debt impact may easily offset any short-term boost to the recovery.

The economic case that government spending can prevent or end a recession is weak. Fortunately, the COVID-19 shutdowns did not trigger a prolonged recession. While we might say, “Better safe than sorry,” the cost of the stimulus will be with us for years to come.

Daniel Sutter is the Charles G. Koch Professor of Economics with the Manuel H. Johnson Center for Political Economy at Troy University and host of Econversations on TrojanVision. The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Troy University.

2 hours ago

Packaging Corp. of America plans $440 million project at Alabama mill

JACKSON, Alabama – Packaging Corp. of America (PCA) plans to launch a three-year, $440 million project to permanently convert a paper machine at its mill in Clarke County to produce linerboard used for corrugated packaging.

Lake Forest, Illinois-based PCA announced that it discontinued the production of uncoated freesheet, used for copy paper and other applications, on its No. 3 paper machine at the Jackson mill in late 2020.

After a temporary switch to produce linerboard, PCA is now making preparations to convert the mill’s paper machine into a 700,000-ton-per-year high-performance, virgin kraft linerboard machine in a phased approach over the next 36 months.

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PCA said key elements in the conversion project include the installation of an OCC plant for recycling old corrugated containers and various pulp mill modifications. In addition, modifications and upgrades will be made to critical sections of the paper machine.

PCA Chairman and CEO Mark Kowlzan said the project will enable the company to meet strong packaging demand and to optimize the Alabama mill’s profitability and viability. The capital cost of the conversion is expected to be approximately $440 million.

“We are appreciative of the continued support from the State of Alabama, the Alabama Department of Commerce, the City of Jackson and Clarke County to help us continue providing quality jobs and a positive economic impact in the Jackson community,” Kowlzan said.

ECONOMIC IMPACT

Governor Kay Ivey said the project represents a positive development for the Jackson mill, a major industrial employer with more than 500 workers.

“Packaging Corp. of America’s reinvestment in its Jackson manufacturing facility will solidify the plant’s future by enhancing its competitiveness,” Governor Ivey said.

“This decision underlines the company’s confidence in its Alabama operation while also preserving jobs and safeguarding local education tax dollars. It’s a win for the company, the community and the state.”

Greg Canfield, Secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce, said PCA’s project will increase the efficiency of the Clarke County plant while providing a long-term economic boost to Jackson, a city with a population of around 5,300.

“We’re committed to helping existing businesses grow and thrive in Alabama, and the impact of a major investment is always magnified when in happens in rural communities,” Secretary Canfield said.

“With this project, PCA is positioning its Jackson mill for the future, which will significantly benefit the city and the region for years to come.”

‘LONG-STANDING RELATIONSHIP’

Jackson Mayor Paul R. South said the project will allow PCA to continue providing quality jobs while securing a positive economic future for Clarke County.

“The City of Jackson looks forward to working with the corporation as the project moves forward,” South said. “In my opinion, they couldn’t have selected a better community.  Jackson is a safe and peaceful city full of great people, with good schools and recreation and a strong work force, along with extensive natural resources.”

“This is wonderful news for Clarke County and the City of Jackson,” said Stan Hutto, chairman of the Clarke County Commission. “We have a long-standing relationship with this outstanding company, and we are committed to helping them achieve their goals to ensure a bright, successful future.”

PCA is the third largest producer of containerboard products and the third largest producer of uncoated freesheet paper in North America. PCA operates eight mills and 90 corrugated products plants and related facilities.

The Jackson mill’s No. 1 paper machine will continue to produce uncoated freesheet products.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

3 hours ago

Alabama’s Helen Keller was more than a hero for the disabled

She could neither see nor hear. But her vision influenced countless millions.

Helen Keller’s influence reached far beyond her native Alabama. She became a celebrity at an early age and remained so throughout her life.

Born in 1880 in Tuscumbia, Keller was 19 months old when an illness left her deaf and blind.

With the help of Anne Sullivan, her teacher for 49 years, she was able to learn how to communicate.

In her prime, she was traveling across the world making appearances and giving inspirational speeches.

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She became known for her tireless activism on behalf of workers’ and women’s rights, her literary work, and her tenure as an unofficial U.S. ambassador to the world.

“Helen Keller lived her life as an example of what people with disabilities could accomplish,” said Keller J. Thompson, her great grand-niece. “She so desired within her innermost being that people with disabilities be given a chance to prove the many things that they could do in this life. By her own experiences, she knew that people with disabilities could have great impacts on the world around them and every day of her life she was eager to be someone that impacted the world in a positive way, leaving it a better place than she found it.”

Keller attended several educational institutions and was accepted at Radcliffe College, where she graduated with honors, becoming the first deaf person to obtain a university degree.

According to an Encyclopedia of Alabama account, in the decades after college, Keller become increasingly involved in politics. She became an advocate of suffrage, unemployment benefits and legalized birth control for women.

She blamed industrialization and poverty for causing disability among a disproportionately large number of working-class people and became increasingly concerned about racial inequalities. She expressed her views through public speeches, newspaper and magazine articles, interviews and appearances at rallies.

Keller entered the 1920s seeking a meaningful public life and financial stability. The newly created American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) supplied both. Working on behalf of blind people with the AFB, Keller became a successful fundraiser and political lobbyist.

From the 1920s through the early 1940s, she worked to raise funds and lobby state and national legislatures. She emphasized educational and employment possibilities for people with disabilities, particularly those who were blind.

A trip to Japan in 1948 was the catalyst for Keller’s transformation from tourist to semi-official ambassador for the United States. Thrilled by her reception in Japan, the State Department worked with the AFB to fund and facilitate her travels and promote her as a representative of Americanism.

In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson awarded her the Congressional Medal of Freedom. When she died in 1968 at the age of 88, she was one of the most famous people in the world.

Keller’s journey from a deaf, blind girl to graduating from Radcliffe and becoming a prominent writer and political activist provided inspiration to millions of people with disabilities.

Although she left Alabama at the age of 8, she always claimed Ivy Green, her family’s house in Tuscumbia, as home, and she continued to identify herself as a Southerner throughout her life and travels.

Keller said: “Your success and happiness lie in you. Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties.”

Throughout March, Alabama NewsCenter is recognizing Alabama women of distinction, past and present, in celebration of Women’s History Month.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 hours ago

Rep. Aderholt warns congressional Democrats moving to allow for taxpayer-funded abortions

FLORENCE — Since 1976, the Hyde Amendment has banned the use of federal funds to pay for abortion except in the extreme case of saving the life of a pregnant woman or terminating a pregnancy that resulted from incest or rape.

The Hyde Amendment has stood the test time, most recently during the 2010 Affordable Care Act debate. However, U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville) warns now that Democrats have the House, Senate and White House, the Hyde Amendment is in their crosshairs.

At an appearance before the Shoals Republican Club on Saturday, Aderholt discussed the possibility of Democrats ending the Hyde Amendment, adding it could come down to one or two Senate Democrats preventing a vote to end the filibuster rule in the U.S. Senate.

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“[O]ne of the things that is most egregious about what’s happening now is abortion — you know, one of those issues that has always been Democrats and Republicans have disagreed on. But one thing Democrats and Republicans could always somewhat agree on was federal funding of abortion off-limits. It’s one thing that if abortion would be allowed, and of course, I’m pro-life. I don’t agree with that. But at least the Democrats would embrace the idea we would not take federal government taxpayer dollars to fund abortion. That is out now. Democrats want to make it so federal funds, your tax dollars, can go for abortion. And that’s a really scary thing.”

“The Hyde Amendment is what we’re talking about. They want to destroy the Hyde Amendment. So, we’re going to do everything we can to make sure we keep the Hyde Amendment. It’s hard on Republicans — it’s hard on the House side, the Republicans being in the minority. Then on the Democrat side in the Senate with only 50 votes — then hopefully, we can get Manchin or some of those others to come along with us to try to make the rule out of order. We’re five seats basically from taking the majority in the House of Representatives.”

Aderholt was optimistic about Republicans’ chances in 2022 to regain control of the House but added his party had to be vigilant in the meantime.

@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.