As we increasingly closer to the 2020 Alabama Legislative Session, we will start to preview how things might start to shape up when things get rolling in February. Of course, no preview could start anywhere else other than what might be the Governor’s agenda and goals for the session, and what we might hear in the State of the State address on February 4th.
When we reached out to the Governor’s office about what would be Governor Kay Ivey’s top priorities during this legislative session, Press Secretary for the Governor, Gina Maiola, responded with, “Through Governor Ivey’s leadership and partnership with the Legislature, we have accomplished much to move the state forward in a short amount of time. However, she and all Alabamians recognize, there are still great needs facing our state. As the governor prepares for this coming Legislative Session, she is focusing on several areas, such as workforce development, education reform, the state’s prison system and access to quality health care. Governor Ivey looks forward to tackling these pressing items and others through a continued, strong bipartisan effort. She wants our state’s leaders to remain responsible with the hard-earned taxpayer dollars by taking a fiscally conservative approach, which will create budgets that work in the best interest of all Alabamians. Discussions are ongoing in these final weeks leading up to the Session, and Governor Ivey certainly is ready to keep Alabama’s great momentum moving forward.”
Workforce Development is a growing need in this state. With the announcement of Toyota and Mazda locating in Huntsville adding up to 4,000 jobs, the expansion of Hyundai in Montgomery which will add and an additional 1,500 jobs, and the new A220 Final Assembly Line and a production increase in the A320 that will see 7 planes a month and 275 more jobs at Airbus in Mobile, it is only natural that more people with the necessary skills to perform those jobs is going to be needed. Combine that with the fact that the state is seeing record unemployment numbers, either we are going to have to train more people or import them from other states, like California and New York. Look for High School Trade Programs and Alabama’s Two-Year College System to play big roles along this front.
Alabama’s ranking in Education rankings compared to other states has also been bottom of the barrel. Chronic under education, or bad deployment of resources has always been a problem. Look for the expansion of Pre-K education programs being a big push by the Governor as getting a good start in education is seen as an important factor in not foaling behind in later grades. It would be surprise if the Governor pushed for the reintroduction of Alabama’s Reading Initiative, which was started under former Governor Bob Riley, but when it was in place, that was the last time the State of Alabama actually made gains in read scores and rankings in the country.
Fixing the State’s Prison System
The State of Alabama is facing the real prospect of a Federal Receivership of our prison system. If that happens, the Federal Government will tell Alabama how many and which prisoners it will have to release to come back into compliance with constitutional standards. Listen for the Governor outline steps she feels the legislature needs to consider to avoiding that receivership. She may even announce new building projects to build some supermax style prisons. Calling a Special Session to start immediately is also not out of the question either.
Access to Healthcare
Rural Hospitals are closing all over the state. This is a problem because that means people in many communities must travel long distances for hospital care. Stopping this trend and expanding affordable access to quality healthcare should be one of the bigger themes in the State of the State address. Grant programs to community and rural healthcare organizations and matching grants from the state to communities to keep current facilities open or open new facilities to replace closed ones might also be something discussed this term.