December 2015 Column: Year in Review
2015 kicked off to be a challenging, yet rewarding year. On January 19th, I proudly took the oath of office for my second term as Lieutenant Governor. I am grateful to the people of this great State for entrusting me with this responsibility.
The year quickly started at a rapid pace. One week before the Inauguration, the Alabama Senate convened in an Organizational Session, where new Senate leadership was elected and new rules were adopted to help the legislative proceedings operate more effectively for the next four years. The first Regular Session of the Quadrennium started in March with the looming challenge regarding the State budgets. Although there were intense debates surrounding the budgets, it is worth noting the Education Trust Fund Budget was given priority resulting in passage in May during the Regular Session. It took two very contentious Special Sessions that concluded in September to finalize a balanced General Fund Budget, with some reforms and limited new taxes.
One of the many moments I am proud of was when I had the privilege to preside over a Joint Legislative Session honoring Alabama’s living Medal of Honor recipients, including the newest, Sgt. Major Bennie Adkins of Opelika, a true American hero.
Throughout the year, I have had the opportunity to meet with several dignitaries from around the world, including leaders representing Canada, Hong Kong, Ukraine and Taiwan, as well as His Excellency Cui Tiankai, China’s Ambassador to the United States. We continue to attract attention from global leaders who are interested in trade and investment opportunities in Alabama.
In my continued efforts to support our military missions in Alabama, I serve as Chair of the Military Stability Commission to help ensure all of our military bases in Alabama are well positioned to meet future challenges. In addition, I had the high honor to participate in a welcome home ceremony for returning members of the 187th Fighter Wing and their families. I am forever grateful to the men and women from Alabama who serve our country in deployments around the world. I also participated in a Wiregrass Sequestration Listening Forum hosted by the Department of Defense to help highlight the important role Fort Rucker plays in our national security. It is vitally important that we continue to improve our military assets and properly prepare to withstand future evaluations of our force structure that may lead to downsizing of Alabama’s military bases and missions.
After we completed our last legislative session in October, I hosted the National Aerospace Foreign Direct Investment Exposition in Los Angeles, California, as the Chair of the Aerospace States Association, along with the United States Department of Commerce. I was very proud that my friend, Mr. Barry Eccleston, President of Airbus America, began his presentation with the song “Sweet Home Alabama” resounding over the speakers at this international conference highlighting their investment in our State. Conference attendees and the aerospace industries both recognize Alabama’s rich aerospace history, as well as our continued growth with over 400 aerospace companies in our State.
Alabama students continue to compete at the highest levels in and out of the classroom. Most recently, the “Fort Payne Seven” from Fort Payne High School placed second out of 19 teams in the Real World Design Challenge National Championship with the successful design and development of an Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) to support precision agriculture. Alabama students have proven over and over they can compete with anyone around the world.
As we approach the end of 2015, I was humbled and honored to be the recipient of this year’s Service to Agriculture Award from the Alabama Farmers Federation. It was personally gratifying to receive this award from a prestigious group of people who help make agriculture the largest industry in this great State.
Alabama continues to increase its presence in global markets and to be recognized as an attractive location for business investment. As a result, the most recent published unemployment rate is at 5.9% resulting in the lowest unemployment rate in our State in seven years. Even though we are not where we want to be, we continue to be trending in the right direction with more new jobs in the pipeline.
As I reflect over this past year and prepare for the upcoming year, I am reminded of how truly blessed we are as a State. Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your Lt. Governor. I am hopeful that you and your family have a Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year.