Second Quarter 2015 Newsletter
I love Alabama all year, but summertime is special. People from all over the region flock to our pristine beaches, families spend valuable time together while kids are out of school, and it’s ideal for porch-sitting with a glass of sweet tea on a summer’s evening. Communities across the State host picnics and fireworks displays. I enjoy bringing my dog Bear along and visiting the lake with family and friends. It’s just a good time of year.
This summer, the Legislature is working overtime. The Governor vetoed the General Fund Budget passed by the Legislature on June 4th, making a Special Legislative Session necessary. Alabama is constitutionally obligated to adopt a budget and for it to be balanced. At this time, there is simply not a consensus on filling a $200 million gap between revenues and expenditures. It is my hope that the Governor and Legislative leadership will come to an agreement so the Legislature can work efficiently and effectively when it convenes for a Special Session (dates TBA). The last time the General Fund Budget was adopted in a Special Session was in 2005.
The Legislature did address many other important issues with success. In fact, the Senate was the most productive in recent history. Both sides of the aisle abound with camaraderie and cooperation and only one cloture petition was filed to cut off debate. More bills were introduced and more bills were passed than any years since 2012.
- The pressing prison problem was addressed with a bold prison reform plan that will improve public safety, decrease overcrowding, and prevent a federal takeover.
- Medicaid reform legislation should save $1.5 billion over the first 10 years and provide better care for our elderly.
- The number of companies who want to do business in Alabama is increasing - the Legislature passed a package of economic incentive bills to provide Alabama with the tools it needs to compete with other states.
- Early in the Session, Alabama became the 43rd state to authorize charter schools - a huge win for parents and children everywhere in Alabama!
- Legislation was enacted that allows local school boards to create virtual classes and schools increasing the opportunity for students and increase student engagement.
- Under the leadership of First Lady Dianne Bentley, a bill passed to combat domestic violence and provide a stronger safety net for victims.
The Legislature enacted positive reform addressing a variety of issues during the 2015 Regular Session. I call that success.
Marshall Space Flight Director Patrick Scheuermann and Astronaut Scott Tingle meet in Lt. Governor Ivey's office.
#ALAeroWeek2015 and NASA Day
We’ve recently heard a lot of aerospace news because of the Paris Air Show where Alabama had a significant presence. The Paris Air Show gives Alabama an opportunity to be in front of hundreds of aerospace companies to pitch doing business here. Alabama has a long history in aerospace and aviation, but in recent years, we’ve become a hub for development and assembly. Landing the first U.S.-based Airbus assembly facility in Mobile put Alabama on the map and in the global eye. The Air Show is certainly a highlight of Alabama’s involvement in aerospace, but promoting the industry occurs continuously. Last Spring, I was elected by my peers as the Chairman of the Aerospace States Association. The national organization represents states’ interests in federal aerospace and aviation policy development so we can remain competitive in a global marketplace. Alabama established a state chapter of ASA last year.
To promote further growth and create awareness among legislators, my office along with NASA and ASA coordinated Alabama Aerospace Week and NASA Day during the Regular 2015 Legislative Session. Lockheed Martin, University of Alabama Huntsville, Auburn University Aviation Center, Jacobs, the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, ASRC Federal, the City of Huntsville, and Boeing helped make it a great success.
One of the highlights during Aero Week was the first meeting of the newly-formed Joint Legislative Aerospace Caucus, a collaboration of Legislators to learn about the growing and evolving aerospace and aviation industries as well as explore possible strategies to aid the State as efforts continue to recruit aerospace companies. I believe Alabama is uniquely poised to capitalize on greater expansion in aerospace and aviation based on our track record of success in the industry. Legislator involvement is key to our success.
The other highlight of the week was hosting distinguished visitors from NASA -- Marshall Space Flight Director Patrick Scheuermann and Astronaut Scott Tingle. The House and Senate took breaks from business to welcome Patrick and Scott on the floor and present resolutions commending their achievements in recognition of NASA Day. A number of interactive displays were set up in and outside the Statehouse for people to learn about NASA’s latest advancements and projects, specifically the Space Launch System (SLS). In the afternoon, Scott visited Carver Elementary School in Montgomery and wowed the kids with his inspiring story. It was an honor to welcome all our NASA friends to the Statehouse. I am so impressed by and appreciative of their particular interest in investing in Alabama. It indicates that they see what the rest of the world is seeing -- Alabama is leading the way in aerospace and aviation and it’s worthwhile to invest resources here.
Medal of Honor recipients Sgt. Bennie Adkins (left) and Col. Leo Thorsness (right).
In honor of Military Day in the Legislature on May 12, 2015, I had the great privilege of hosting two of Alabama’s three living Congressional Medal of Honor recipients. I convened a Joint Legislative Session in their honor. Col. Leo Thorsness (Air Force) and Sgt. Bennie Adkins (Army) selflessly served their country and earned the military’s highest award for their life-saving and heroic actions during the Vietnam War. Their stories are extraordinary.
Col. Thorsness’ jet was shot down over North Vietnam. He was held as a prisoner of war for six years. He earned the Medal of Honor eleven days prior to being shot down during a combat mission. He destroyed surface-to-air missiles then single-handedly shot down several enemy aircraft, preventing them from attacking troops known to be on the ground at the time.
Sgt. Adkins served in Special Forces for more than 13 years and completed three tours in Vietnam. Sgt. Adkins earned his Medal when he fought back on an assault by enemy forces to infiltrate his unit’s camp. He came under heavy fire, sustaining 18 wounds, and saved his fellow soldiers, leaving no one behind. He eliminated up to 175 enemy forces.
These are real American heroes. Being in their presence is awing. But they sure don’t take themselves too seriously. I am truly grateful for their service and sacrifice for our country and the role models they are for young troops today.
I was also honored to welcome our Alabama Air National Guard 187th Fighter Wing Commander Col. Randall Efferson, Vice-Commander Col. Will Sparrow, Chaplain John Bailey, and 100th Fighter Squadron Commander Lt. Col. Ryan Barker on Military Day. Chaplain Bailey led the prayer and Lt. Col. Barker led the Senate pledge at the start of the Session day. The 187th is a fast and formidable force in the sky and Alabama is proud to claim them.
The Fort Payne Seven, four-time state winners of the Real World Design Challenge.
Four-Time Champs Soar to Nationals
There must be something in the water at Fort Payne High School because, for the fourth year in a row, a Fort Payne team won the Alabama Real World Design Challenge! The team, dubbed the Fort Payne Seven, will now pit their design of an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) against dozens others in the national competition in November. I invited the students and their teacher sponsor down to Montgomery for a special awards ceremony on May 11th and we had a wonderful time! The students looked mighty spiffy in their school insignia blazers donated by their superintendent, Jim Cunningham, and principal, Brian Jett. Thank you Mr. Cunningham and Mr. Jett for your support of these students!
The Real World Design Challenge is an aerospace engineering design competition for high school students. Each team that signs up receives $1 million worth of professional engineering software to complete the project. Eighteen teams from across the state registered to compete. The teams were challenged to design a UAS to support precision agriculture. Submissions were judged by industry professionals from Lockheed Martin, United Launch Alliance, and Boeing, and awarded points for their 1) team engagement, 2) system design, 3) application plan, and 4) business plan.
Moving forward, my office is working with the Alabama Mathematics, Science, Technology, and Engineering Coalition (AMSTEC) to increase participation and completion of the design. AMSTEC has coordinated the competition since we got Alabama involved and I am grateful for their commitment to STEM education! We’ve found that many schools sign up, but for various reasons, don’t finish. Some schools may not have many teachers available who are familiar with the software or may not have adequate access to mentors who can provide support. Recently, we’ve made some great connections with industry professionals as well as leaders in higher education who are interested in helping us take RWDC to the next level. I am looking forward to seeing the program grow and allow more students the opportunity to have real world, hands on experience that prepares them for the 21st century global workforce. As Alabama continues to recruit aerospace companies, we have a responsibility to have a prepared workforce.
Lt. Governor Ivey hosts the newly-elected Alabama Girls State Lt. Governor Christina Scheuermann to her office.
Girls State Milestone
Girls State is a milestone in many ways. It marks a significant point in a young lady’s life when a penchant for politics blossoms into a passion for public service. Every time I meet a Girls State alumnus, she shares the impact it had on her life. Speaking from experience, it was life-changing and marked a milestone in my life. It was, again, a milestone as I celebrated 53 consecutive years of participation this past June! After I attended in high school, I continued involvement as a counselor, director, and speaker.
I normally speak at the opening session, but this year, I had the opportunity to speak at the closing session in Montgomery. It was a different energy. At the beginning of the week, the girls are excited, nervous, and ready to go. I enjoy motivating the girls about the week to come and anticipate seeing their growth as leaders. By the end of the week, they’ve shed any shyness. They are fired up and ready to return home and put what they learned into practice. It was a good energy!
Speaking at the closing session also provided the appropriate opportunity to recognize the Alabama Girls State Executive Director, my very good friend, Lee Sellers. Lee marked 15 years of devoted service. It takes a special person to lead a group of 350 young ladies! Lee is ideal for the job. She is sharp as a tack and the epitome of a lady. Under her leadership, the program has grown and every girl who attends is offered a partial scholarship to a number of Alabama colleges and universities. It was my honor to present her with a Senate Resolution in recognition of her service.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your Lt. Governor! I hope you have a happy and safe 4th of July! As you celebrate America’s birthday, I encourage you to read the words Thomas Jefferson penned declaring America’s independence.
Photos: (Top) Lt. Governor Ivey presides over the Alabama Senate, June 4, 2015.
(Left) Addressing the first meeting of the Joint Legislative Aerospace Caucus, April 8, 2015.
(Right) Presenting a young boy adopted from the Ukraine with an Alabama pin while former Ukrainian Ambassador Olexander Motsyk (left) visits, April 7, 2015.
(Bottom) 187th Fighter Wing Vice-Commander Col. Will Sparrow (left) and Commander Col. Randall Efferson (right) are distinguished guests on Military Day, May 12, 2015.