Weekly Newsletter: May 17, 2013
Alabama is on the move! I have repeated this phrase many times in the last year, and it continues to hold true as the state draws new and expanding business, adds jobs, and works to improve the overall economic climate. In Alabama, we strive for a business-friendly environment where small businesses and corporations alike may develop and grow.
Gulf State Park Lodge Bill Signing
On Tuesday, I joined Governor Robert Bentley at Gulf State Park where he signed SB 231, by Sen. Trip Pittman, into law. It allows for the construction of a lodge and convention center on the park property. The State happens to own premier beachfront property on the Gulf of Mexico, and building a lodge to attract visitors and spur tourism dollars is the right thing to do. No taxpayer money is being used and the revenues will help fund Alabama’s other beautiful parks.
More Alabamians Back to Work
Welcomed job news came out Friday morning. Alabama’s unemployment rate in April declined from 7.2% to 6.9%. We rank among the lowest of southeastern states. This is a significant improvement compared to April 2010, prior to this administration taking office, when unemployment was at 9.4% and more than 207,000 Alabamians looking for jobs were unemployed. Alabama is certainly on the move!
South Alabama Automotive Supplier Expands
Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to participate in a groundbreaking ceremony for a new facility at HS Automotive Alabama (HSAA) in Enterprise. The company is a major supplier to Hyundai, producing rubber goods for the automotive industry. Over a 10-year period, HSAA doubled the size of its facility and currently employs 270 people. With the expansion of a new facility, 100 jobs will be added. Enterprise’s slogan is “City of Progress.” Under the leadership of Mayor Kenneth Boswell, it is living up to the claim.
RAMP Projects Announced
Governor Bentley presented more positive job news Monday with the announcement of 254 Rural Assistance Match Program (RAMP) projects, a complement to the Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation and Improvement Program (ATRIP), to improve infrastructure across the state and result in job creation. Now, a total of 693 road and bridge projects across the state have been announced or are underway; a total investment of $750 million. RAMP is available to counties that are unable to meet the 20 percent local funding match required to participate in ATRIP to improve ailing roads and bridges. Some of Alabama’s counties, particularly in rural areas, needed more leverage to jump-start infrastructure improvements in their communities. As a member of the ATRIP Advisory Committee, I am pleased to see all Alabama counties now have the opportunity to participate.
Last Legislative Day
The Alabama Legislature will meet for its final Legislative day, Monday, May 20th. With dozens of appointments pending confirmation, at least 100 local bills awaiting action, and many more bills hanging in the balance, I anticipate the Senate will work until it constitutionally must quit at midnight. I will remain in the chair as Presiding Officer for the duration.
Military Bills and Military Appreciation Month
It is my hope the Senate will take up military bills drafted and advocated for by the Military Stability Commission, of which I serve as Chair. I would particularly like to see HB 338 and HB 424 passed.
- HB 338 by Rep. Paul Lee (Senate version by Sen. Phil Williams): Allows military members to receive professional license and academic credit for relevant skills learned and utilized while serving in the military.
- HB 424 by Rep. Barry Moore (Senate version by Sen. Bill Holtzclaw): Extends in-state tuition benefits to active service members & families who are stationed in Alabama.
- Preparing for BRAC is a continuous process, and legislation like this will help put Alabama in a better position to fend off dramatic, and possibly damaging, base closures. It is the Military Stability Commission’s goal to retain or expand our military installations and protect and advocate for our military men and women and veterans.
Not only is it a wise decision for the future of military in our state, but it would be very fitting to pass these bills this month. May is designated National Military Appreciation Month. Let’s pay special tribute to our service men and women who are sacrificing so much to serve our country, this month and every month. We salute you and thank you for your service.
I invite you to share your story of someone you know serving in the military and thank them for their service on my Facebook page.
21st Century Workforce Act
One of the initiatives I have taken as Lieutenant Governor is to promote 21st Century workforce preparation for a global market. I helped Alabama get involved in the National Real World Design Challenge – an aerospace engineering and design competition for high school students. It gives students hands-on experience with industry-grade software to develop an aircraft based on a real world situation. I also serve on the College and Career Ready Task Force to strengthen the preparation of students for the workforce.
That’s why I also hope to see the Senate give final passage to the 21st Century Workforce Act, HB 102 by Rep. Mac Buttram. This bill provides some funding, by way of a bond issue, for local school boards to buy career and technical education equipment. A well-trained labor force is a critical cog in the wheel of economic development and an important element considered by companies when choosing where to locate. It is incumbent upon our educational institutions to prepare our students for an advanced workforce, and upon the state to cultivate an environment where that’s possible.
New This Afternoon
Today, the Alabama Supreme Court issued a ruling to clear the way for Trinity Healthcare in Birmingham to relocate to the vacant hospital on Highway 280. Congratulations to Trinity Healthcare President, Keith Granger, and Community Health Systems CEO, Wayne Smith. Their commitment will have a positive impact on healthcare in Birmingham and create many new jobs.
Thank you for allowing me to serve the great State of Alabama and if I may ever be of assistance to you, please do not hesitate to contact my office at (334) 242-7900.