Second Quarter 2013 Newsletter
Happy Fourth of July! The United States’ second President, John Adams, wrote to his wife Abigail after America’s freedom was declared:
“I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding generations, as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the day of deliverance by solemn Acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more.”
So we celebrate the birth of our free Nation with our family and friends, waving flags, attending parades or watching fireworks, just as President Adams predicted. It is a good time to reflect on the authors of the Declaration of Independence who had the courage to demand a free society, and be grateful for the sacrifices made by our military to secure that freedom. Because of them, we enjoy the freedom of democracy where everyone may participate in the process.
2nd Half of Legislative Session
I am honored to have a front row seat to Alabama’s democracy in action as I preside over the Senate. In the second quarter of 2013, the Legislature wrapped up the third Legislative Session of this quadrennium. I adjourned the Senate sine die May 20th after a productive second half.
Each Session during my term has been historic and I believe the 2013 Session is no exception. Legislators bravely turned from the status quo, moved this state forward and passed measures for significant long-term progress of the State.
Legislators passed measures to streamline parts of state government to save taxpayer dollars and better deliver services. Under the leadership of Sen. Greg Reed, the Legislature approved a major Medicaid overhaul which, I believe, will provide long-term solutions to the challenge of an ever expanding essential service as the new healthcare delivery model is implemented over time.
Thanks to real education reform, parents now have more freedom to seek a quality education for their children and the choice to determine where their children may attend school. Additionally, schools now have the flexibility to tailor curriculum for their specific classrooms. Parents and schools have never had that much freedom before to make decisions about their children’s education.
After numerous governors attempted before, Governor Robert Bentley seized a unique opportunity and successfully made the construction of a lodge and convention center at Gulf State Park a reality providing an economic boost for the state and lasting funding tool for other state parks. The construction of the lodge and convention center will be paid for by fine money from the BP oil spill. Not one dime of taxpayer money will be used.
And the state’s largest road and bridge improvement project was expanded to give all counties the ability to participate. Under the Alabama Transportation and Rehabilitation Improvement Program (ATRIP) and the newly passed Rural Assistance Match Program (RAMP), nearly 700 road and bridge improvement projects have been approved, representing a $750 million investment. That is huge for our state. Road and bridge improvements create jobs and play a role in the long-term economic growth of local communities and the state.
I commend Governor Bentley for his leadership to initiate the programs and believe years from now; ATRIP will be a lasting mark of the leadership of the Bentley Administration.
Protecting Alabama’s Military Assets
I learned a number recently that was very eye-opening for me and I’d like to share it with you. Alabama’s four major military installations (Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Maxwell/Gunter Air Force Base in Montgomery, Ft. Rucker in Dale County, and Anniston Army Depot) create a statewide economic impact of $12 billion. That is the equivalent of three Hyundai plants.
We value the investment of all business and industry in Alabama, but that number impressed upon me the importance of the mission to protect our military resources from reduction as a result of the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process and sequestration.
It is unclear when BRAC may come up again, but the process could begin as early as 2015 or 2016. As Chair of the Military Stability Commission (MSC), I join Commission members and those in the military community in the effort to strengthen Alabama’s military installations and reinforce our role as a good host to military personnel and families.
Last week, I was proud to stand beside Governor Bentley as he held a ceremonial bill-signing for two military-focused bills drafted and supported by the MSC. The bills passed the House and Senate with flying colors. We may not agree on everything, but I appreciate Republicans and Democrats coming together to support our service men and women and military installations.
HB 338 by Rep. Paul Lee allows military members and veterans to receive academic and professional licensure credit for relevant skills acquired in the military, making the transition from service to the civilian workforce smoother. The Governor also signed HB 424 by Rep. Barry Moore which extends in-state tuition fees for active service members, their spouses, and dependents located in Alabama under orders.
The effects of BRAC could be devastating for parts of the state, particularly in areas where the military is the primary economic driver. So we will continue to work hard to prepare for any potential dramatic changes to our military resources for the benefit of all Alabamians.
Alabama on the Move
Alabama is on the move! I’ve repeated that phrase many times in the last year and it continues to hold true as new and old businesses develop. In the second quarter of 2013, I attended several groundbreaking or ribbon cutting ceremonies. Airbus in Mobile broke ground on the company’s first U.S.-based assembly plant in early April. Airbus is expected to provide 1,000 jobs in Mobile and more than 3,000 during construction. Boeing, a solid corporate citizen to Alabama for 50 years, expanded its operation in Huntsville and cut the ribbon on a new facility at Redstone Gateway Office Park. In May, HS Automotive Alabama (HSAA) in Enterprise added a new facility along with 100 new jobs. The company is a major supplier to Hyundai, producing rubber goods for the automotive industry.
Alabama is evolving as one of the leading states in the aerospace industry and we are the envy of other states and countries working to attract auto manufacturing. Unemployment is at 6.8%. That is still too high, but we are on the move.
Ending Child Hunger in Alabama Launch
As you know, I serve as the campaign spokesperson for Ending Child Hunger in Alabama (ECHA), the first initiative of the Hunger Solutions Institute at Auburn University. The campaign has officially kicked off! At the end of April, members of the ECHA Task Force and stakeholders in the fight against hunger gathered for a campaign kick-off at Wares Ferry Elementary School in Montgomery where 85% of students receive free/reduced lunch. Child hunger is an issue close to my heart. My home county of Wilcox has the highest food insecurity rate in the state. Food insecurity means not knowing where your next meal may come from, or if you will receive one. Can you imagine, in our Great State and Nation full of innovation and advancement, we have children who go hungry? It is an entirely preventable problem with the right ideas, tools, and implementation. I am proud to join the effort to fight child hunger and ensure our children have the proper nutrition they need to succeed in school and life.
I am honored to serve as Lieutenant Governor of this great State. Please do not hesitate to contact my office if I may be of any assistance to you.
Have a happy and safe Fourth of July!