Dear Friends,

As we close out the first quarter of the year, I am reminded of what a busy and momentous three months it’s been. The new year ushered in a new term in office for elected officials and here we are, already eight days into the Legislative Session.

Inauguration
The Inauguration marked the turning of a page on a new chapter in Alabama history. My Inaugural events kicked off January 18, 2015, at the Alabama Department of Archives and History where I welcomed friends and colleagues for a reception. That evening, I was honored to host Alabama Senators for a dinner at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts. Early morning of January 19, 2015, I stood on the steps of the Alabama State Capitol and took the oath of office as Lieutenant Governor for the second time and for the fourth time in my career of public service. We were blessed with a warm and beautiful day in the Capital City. I placed my hand on the Bible that belonged to my mother to reaffirm my commitment to Alabama and vow to complete the duties of Lieutenant Governor to the best of my ability. Following the ceremony, I hosted an open house for anyone who wanted to attend in my Capitol office. None of my Inaugural events were at taxpayer expense. 

After the busyness of the campaign season, Inauguration weekend was a good time for all elected leaders to pause and consider why we serve. I posed that question in my Inaugural address: Why do you serve? When asked the same question, famous composer Johann Sebastian Bach replied simply, “For the glory of God and good of mankind.” I challenge my colleagues to do the same.

Alabama is in my heart. I love this State where I grew up that has provided me with tremendous opportunities. Thank you for the privilege to serve.

Legislative Session
Legislators returned to the Alabama Statehouse on March 3, 2015, and I called the Senate to order for the beginning of the Regular Legislative Session for the fifth time. March 19th marked the eighth day of the 2015 Regular Session. I’ve been impressed by the cooperation I’ve seen among Senators. Even though they have the votes, Republicans have refrained from using their power in numbers to cut off debate, called cloture, to pass bills. And Democrats have helped move along legislation without lengthy delays. The Alabama School Choice and Student Opportunity Act, known as the charter school bill, became the first priority bill of the Majority Caucus to pass and be signed into law by the Governor. The bill establishes the Alabama Charter Public School Commission which will oversee the process as charter schools are developed across the state. It’s certainly a new day for education in Alabama. In the past, this kind of legislation never would have passed under the heavy influence of education special interests. Charter schools are not the “fix” for all of Alabama’s education challenges, but providing the option is a step in the right direction. School choice for parents and flexibility for schools is the right method to see long-term change. We’re on our way. Moving forward, legislators have tough decisions to make about the budgets, especially the General Fund, and how to best manage the situation with our prison system. I am hopeful Senators will continue to work in a cooperative fashion as they tackle these tough issues.

Sequestration Listening Forum
If sequestration goes into effect as planned, then Fort Rucker could see a dramatic cut to funds and forces that would have a ripple effect on nearby communities. At the end of February, I had the opportunity to address a delegation of U.S. Army officials who were tasked with hearing from leaders from the State and each affected community about their expected impact of a reduction of operations at Fort Rucker. City leaders from Daleville, Ozark, Enterprise, and Dothan presented their case and made clear that sequestration would have damaging effects on their communities in every way from education to the housing market. And I made it clear the impact would be felt across the State. Military installations in Alabama are a major economic engine with a $17 billion impact. Nationally, Fort Rucker is vital to the Army’s combat preparedness. The training that takes place at Fort Rucker is often the difference in a matter of life or death on the battlefield. I fully support Congress in finding ways to reduce federal spending and the deficit, but not at the risk of degrading our nation’s defense. It is important that defense cuts and realignments be done in a deliberate and thoughtful manner. Sequestration is not the right way to go about that. The Army officers listened attentively to every presentation and every city leader for more than 5 hours and then heard from community members at a public forum until late that night. I am grateful for their time and effort. I know they’re in a difficult position. Congress has asked the military to make cuts, so they’re evaluating where those cuts may be made. It’s up to Congress to take action to reverse sequestration. Alabama is fortunate to have a Congressional delegation that is of the same mind when it comes to protecting our military assets and they’re doing the best they can to encourage their colleagues to stop sequestration. Join me in supporting and advocating for our service members and military installations as this issue develops.

Joint Legislative Aerospace Caucus & Aerospace Week
For decades, Alabama has played an important role in aviation and aerospace. From the nation’s first civilian flying school established in Montgomery by the Wright Brothers, to developing the first rockets tasked with a mission to space led by Wernher von Braun in Huntsville, and now to the construction of Airbus’ first U.S. assembly plant in Mobile; Alabama has established itself as a growing hub for aviation and aerospace development and advancement. Aerospace is a growing global industry. Alabama has successfully capitalized off the expansion in recent years, but we can’t stop there. The industry continues to grow and evolve as endeavors of commercial travel to space and integrating Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) into military and commercial use are pursued. Aerospace in America is a rapidly changing industry that has revolutionized our culture presenting new economic opportunities along the way. As Chair of the Aerospace States Association, I have a strong interest in leading a coordinated effort to help our state remain at the forefront of the aerospace industry and I believe the Legislature has a key role. I’m pleased to initiate the first Joint Legislative Aerospace Caucus. The purpose of the Aerospace Caucus is to educate and inform ourselves through briefings by industry professionals, hearings on aerospace legislation and regulation, special events, and visits to various aerospace-related sites and companies. Aerospace is a target industry of the Department of Commerce’s strategic plan. It is important that legislators are informed about the industry as the State pursues economic development. Moving forward, we have an opportunity to expand our footprint in the field and increase jobs in Alabama. We’ll be more successful if we get on the same page and pursue our endeavors together. The first meeting on April 8th coincides with Alabama Aerospace Week April 6th-9th. I look forward to bringing you a report on the Aerospace Caucus in my next newsletter. 

Buy Alabama’s Best
Alabama-made food products can’t be beat. Blue Bell Ice Cream, Golden Flake, Sister Schubert’s Rolls, Milo’s Tea, and Wickles Pickles, just to name a few. They’re not only “homegrown” favorites. They’re popular brands across the region, even nation. I had the opportunity to kick-off the “Buy Alabama’s Best” campaign with the Alabama Grocers Association, Alabama Department of Agriculture, and many representatives of Alabama-made food product companies. The campaign encourages consumers to purchase products from companies that are headquartered in Alabama, or grow or manufacture their products here. The campaign lasted through March and another will launch for September, but I encourage you to buy Alabama-made products all year! Alabama food products generate an estimated $2 billion impact on our economy. Some of the brands you may know. But if you’re not sure, just turn the product around and check the label. During the campaign months, in addition to supporting Alabama’s economy, you’re also supporting a good cause. A portion of the proceeds are contributed to Children’s of Alabama to help find a cure for childhood cancer. To date, the Buy Alabama’s Best campaign has raised over a half a million dollars to fight pediatric cancer. During the campaign kick-off press conference, Lowndes Academy 10th grader, Zach Till, from my home county of Wilcox shared his story as a three-time cancer survivor. He and his mom credit God and the capable and caring staff at Children’s for his healing and recovery. Truly a remarkable story and a testament to investing where you live.

Honoring Coach Frank Tolbert
Every now and then, as Lt. Governor, I get to honor someone for a personal reason. Coach Frank Tolbert is a 40+ year coach at Auburn High School. He’s coached football, basketball, and track to thousands of students through the years, including my Chief of Staff, Steve Pelham. Recently, Coach Tolbert achieved his 700th career win as the head basketball coach -- an impressive feat by any standard. I was proud to present Coach Tolbert with a Certificate of Recognition and the American and Alabama State flags that had been flown over the State Capitol in his honor. Coach Tolbert is a tremendous leader and example. I am personally grateful for his contributions to shaping Alabama’s youth.

Thank you for the privilege to serve this Great State. I look forward to continuing the Legislative Session and hope you’ll stop by my office if you’re in Montgomery. As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office if I may be of any assistance to you.

Sincerely,

Photos:
(Top) First Lady Dianne Bentley presents her domestic violence prevention legislation, March 18, 2015. 
(Second Row Left) Guests visit Lt. Governor Ivey during Inaugural Capitol Office Open House, January 19, 2015.
(Second Row Right) Friends from Camden pose for a photo during the Lt. Governor's Inaugural Reception at the Alabama Department of Archives, January 18, 2015.
(Third Row) Lt. Governor Ivey welcomes home members of the 187th who were deployed to Afghanistan, February 7, 2015.
(Bottom Left) Lt. Governor Ivey pitched in at a work site for Auburn University's Big Event, March 14, 2015.
(Bottom Right) WBC World Heavyweight Champion Boxer from Tuscaloosa, Deontay Wilder, visits the Alabama Statehouse. Lt. Governor Ivey and Sen. Gerald Allen (Tuscaloosa) pose for a photo with Deontay, March 5, 2015.