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Trip Pittman: Reflecting on 11 years of representing Baldwin County in the Alabama Legislature

For the past 11 years, I have served the citizens of Alabama, representing Baldwin County and the Gulf Coast area in the Alabama State Senate.

As a firm believer in the value of term limits and the idea of citizen-legislators, I have decided to not seek re-election and to allow others to step forward and serve. If the father of our country, George Washington, could return to Mount Vernon after two terms as president, surely no office holder is irreplaceable. And Baldwin County is a nice place to come home to.

As a departing member of the Baldwin County legislative team, I want to say a few words about all that has been accomplished for the citizens of south Alabama.

First, thanks to Representative (and delegation Chairman) Randy Davis from Daphne, Representative Joe Faust of Fairhope, and Representative Steve McMillan of south Baldwin County, it is now easier for coastal homeowners to claim insurance discounts for construction that fortifies a home against wind damage. Following hurricanes Ivan and
Katrina in 2004 and 2005, home insurance premiums skyrocketed on the coast.

If coastal homeowners made repairs or improvements to prevent wind damage, they were required to present detailed construction records before they could receive an insurance discount. Thanks to Representative Davis’s 2018 bill, homeowners now need only present a builder’s certificate to get a break on their insurance.

The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill was a crisis for the Coast, and the Baldwin County delegation worked hard to make sure that coastal residents were fairly reimbursed for damages. In addition to settlements with Mobile, Fairhope and Baldwin County, BP in 2016 agreed to pay the state of Alabama approximately $1 billion for economic damages to the entire state.

As you may recall, this set off an intense battle in the State Legislature. Some northern Alabama lawmakers argued that the Coast shouldn’t receive any of the state’s settlement with BP, and that all of the funds should go to Medicaid and debt repayments. Even though we were out-numbered six-to-one, coastal lawmakers held our ground, worked the process, and garnered support from other thoughtful legislators to secure $120 million for infrastructure projects in Baldwin and Mobile counties.

Funded with other BP monies, the new Lodge at Gulf State Park is set to open in November, fourteen years after the previous facility was torn down after damage from Hurricane Ivan.

The lodge will include 350 guest rooms and 40,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor event space. For years, the Baldwin County delegation worked hard to pass enabling legislation sponsored by Representative McMillan, and we worked closely with former Governors Bob Riley and Robert Bentley and Governor Kay Ivey to finance and facilitate the rebuilding of the lodge and meeting place.

Since 2010, I have served as chairman of either the Education Trust Fund or the state general fund budgets. Sometimes, that has felt a little like swimming in the Gulf of Mexico and getting caught in a rip current, but I am deeply proud of the work conservative Republicans have done to put Alabama’s finances on a stable footing. From 1980-2011, the education budget was prorated 11 times, but since the Republican majority passed the Rolling Reserve Act in 2011, which I sponsored in the Senate, proration has not occurred a single time. That fiscal discipline allowed the legislature to give teachers a 4 percent pay raise in 2016 and a 2.5 percent pay raise this year, pay back $437 million in debt, and put aside over $200 million dollars in the Education Budget Stabilization Account.

It has been an honor to serve with Baldwin County’s capable legislative team, which includes Greg Albritton, a fellow state senator, and Harry Shiver, Alan Baker, Thomas Jackson, Joe Faust, Steve McMillan and Randy Davis in the House of Representatives. I want to personally thank each of you for your service to our constituents in south Alabama, and for putting up with me.

To the citizens of Baldwin County: it has been the privilege of a lifetime to represent you in the Alabama Legislature.

Thank you.

U.S. Rep. Trip Pittman is a Republican from Montrose.

1 hour ago

David Cole departs Alabama Farmers Federation for BCA

The Business Council of Alabama (BCA) is adding another star to its governmental affairs team.

Shortly after breaking BCA’s hiring of Molly Cagle from Manufacture Alabama, sources confirmed to Yellowhammer News that Alabama Farmers Federation Director of State Affairs David Cole is coming on board at the same time.

Cole, like Cagle, is joining BCA’s governmental affairs staff effective February 28, just in time for the March 5 start of the state legislative session. Most recently, Cole spearheaded the federation’s lobbying efforts in the Alabama House of Representatives.

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Sources confirmed to Yellowhammer News Friday that federation Executive Director Paul Pinyan sent out an email announcing Cole’s departure and thanking him for his commitment to Alabama agriculture — the state’s biggest industry. Pinyan also outlined how the staff would be moved around in response to Cole leaving.

Director of External Affairs Matthew Durdin – and his staff members, Director of Agricultural Legislation Preston Roberts and administrative assistant Jessica Mims – will now be involved in some state governmental affairs work. Former Alabama Secretary of State Beth Chapman, who has been working as a political consultant for the federation, will now add governmental affairs work on contract.

An official announcement with details of the federation’s staff changes is expected to be released in the coming week.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 hours ago

Molly Cagle joining BCA from Manufacture Alabama

One of Alabama’s rising stars in the governmental affairs world is on the move.

Sources confirmed to Yellowhammer News Friday that Manufacture Alabama (MA) Director of External Affairs Molly Cagle has accepted a governmental affairs position with the Business Council of Alabama (BCA). While an exact title has yet to be released, Cagle is expected to bolster BCA’s legislative affairs team.

The hire marks the first in BCA President and CEO Katie Boyd Britt’s tenure. She was hired by the organization’s executive committee in December and took office January 2.

Cagle’s last day at MA is February 20, according to an email from her to the association’s membership obtained by Yellowhammer News.

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“My time at Manufacture Alabama over the last four and a half years has been incredibly rewarding. The friendships, lessons, and advice are things that I cherish and will take with me throughout my career,” she wrote.

Cagle comes to BCA with an impressive track record in legislative work, including past service as the Senate Liaison for Alabama Senate President Pro Tempore Del Marsh. She received her bachelor’s in Political Science, with a minor in Broadcast Journalism, from Troy University.

Named to Yellowhammer Multimedia’s “Power and Influence: Who’s Next?” list for 2018, Cagle will be a major addition to BCA as the organization refocuses on its pro-jobs mission of “making a sweet home for business” in Alabama.

Cagle’s email noted, “As I prepare to take on my new role, I want to assure everyone that the staff at Manufacture Alabama has taken the steps to make my departure as seamless as possible. A special thank you to George Clark for his guidance and support not only over the last several years but also throughout this process.”

The state legislative session begins March 5.

As of Friday at 2:30 p.m., BCA had taken down its online staff directory. An official announcement of the hire is expected in the coming days.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 hours ago

It is time for the Alabama legislature to end the state-mandated subsidy to print media outlets

Who won the 2018 general election in Alabama?

You might think with all the talk of $900 prison spending bills, gas taxes, Medicaid expansion and the lottery that Democrats won in a massive landslide and were preparing to implement their agenda. But that is not what happened — Republicans actually picked up seats.

The state of Alabama, with a Republican super-majority, is preparing to spend big and grow government.

As they do this, maybe they can toss the citizens of Alabama a bone and make the government a little more efficient by saving state agencies, counties, cities and school boards a substantial amount of money every year.

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Current Alabama law requires government entities in Alabama to advertise legal notices, legislation, constitutional amendments, voter rolls and other public matters in the local print media outlets.

This is not chump change:

  • The state of Alabama spends up to $800,000 each year.
  • The city of Huntsville spends up to $115,000 each year.
  • Madison County spends up to $153,000 each year.

If we were to add up all the costs to local governments, we would find that these costs are in the multiple millions of dollars range.

In a state that has a $6+ billion dollar education budget, this may seem like something that is minuscule and irrelevant, but that is not the case when adding all the entities required by law to hand government money over to private companies to print a product that very few use and could easily be uploaded to an official state/county/city website and be more accessible to your average Alabamians.

The only counter-argument, which will be made by those working in or for the print media industry and no one else, is that there are communities in Alabama that don’t have high-speed Internet and can’t access these websites.

This is a canard that only allows legislators to do nothing and not face the wrath of people who “buy ink by the barrel.”

Keeping these laws on the books only acts to subsidize the print media. It does not benefit your average Alabamian one bit.

This print media subsidy should be ended immediately. Surely there are other things these government entities can spend this money on.

@TheDaleJackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 am weekdays on WVNN

4 hours ago

Tennessee Valley Authority selects next president and CEO

The nation’s largest public utility has picked the leader of one of Canada’s largest power companies to head the $11 billion federal corporation.

On Thursday, the Tennessee Valley Authority board announced the selection of Jeffrey Lyash as president and CEO effective in April.

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Lyash is president and CEO of Ontario Power Generation Inc. He was formerly president of CB&I Power and executive vice president of energy supply for Duke Energy.

He also served in management roles with Progress Energy and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Lyash is chairman of the Electric Power Research Institute, an international nonprofit for public interest energy and environmental research.

Lyash replaces Bill Johnson, who is retiring after joining the federal utility in 2013.

TVA serves about 10 million people in parts of seven southeastern states.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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5 hours ago

Doug Jones on Medicaid expansion: ‘We’re losing out on billions of dollars … the state of Alabama damn sure could use’

During an appearance on Huntsville radio’s WVNN on Thursday, Sen. Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook) offered his thoughts on rumblings that policymakers in Montgomery were considering expanding Medicaid rolls.

The renewed discussion comes in the wake of Butler County’s Georgiana losing its hospital and some GOP lawmakers in the statehouse suggesting it was something to consider.

According to Jones, the expansion of Medicaid would be one of the ingredients necessary in ensuring rural hospitals in Alabama are sustainable.

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“I think it would go a long way,” Jones said on “The Jeff Poor Show.” “There are a lot of factors that come into play when you’re talking about rural hospitals, including the wage index that we try to get things changed, so we get the same reimbursements as other states. But I think expansion of Medicaid would be a big help. I think it would be a huge deal for rural hospitals. It would bring in billions of dollars – billions of dollars that’s our money, by the way, that we haven’t been getting since the state refused to do that. And candidly, it was a political decision when they refused to do it. Everybody knows that. There was a legitimate concern about the cost.”

“But now that we look back, we can see that the cost-benefit – the benefit outweighs the cost tremendously,” he continued. “Plus the benefit with the good health outcomes – more people with good health care, better health outcomes. It’s just a win-win. And so I am hoping this year they can do that.”

Jones said he and Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) were working on legislation to gives states that have not yet expanded Medicaid the incentive to do so, and that way the “money would start flowing in.”

When asked about the possibility of the state of Alabama being on the hook for extra cost when that initial infusion of federal money runs out, the Jefferson County Democrat said he expected the money to continue to be there for Medicaid.

“I don’t think the money will run out,” he replied. “I think the money is here to stay. It is one of those things that passed in the ‘60s. It is here to stay. I think the money is going to continue to be there. And the fact of the matter is, no one would get left holding the bag because if the Medicaid money went away, then obviously the insurance goes away. I don’t think anybody’s going to want to let that happen.”

When asked about lawmakers considering the possibility, Jones described his attitude as “hopeful.”

“I am very hopeful,” Jones said. “I think there’s a couple of dynamics in play, including the fact that we’re not really talking about ObamaCare anymore. We’re talking about the Affordable Care Act, and we’re talking about things – keeping people with preexisting conditions and making sure they have health care. And the other thing, too – now we have the evidence. No one can really say, ‘Oh, this is going to cost too much. We can’t afford it.’ We got the evidence from all the states to show that is just not the case and we’re losing out on billions of dollars that come in, and that’s billions of dollars the state of Alabama damn sure could use.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV and host of “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN in Huntsville.