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Ivey delivers Huntsville address to large turnout at VBC

HUNTSVILLE – Less than a week after the latest gambling bill died in the Legislature, an appearance by Gov. Kay Ivey produced a full house Monday at the Von Braun Center’s Saturn Ballroom.

A luncheon crowd of more than 1,000 filled the north end of the VBC as Ivey was the featured speaker at the Huntsville-Madison County Chamber’s Alabama Update.

(Huntsville-Madison County Chamber/Facebook)

Ironically, it was lawmakers representing Madison County who played a large hand in the demise of the bill, which fell one vote shy of moving out of the senate after the house gave approval. Four of five senators who represent Madison County  – Tom Butler (R-Madison), Sam Givhan (R-Huntsville), Wes Kitchens (R-Arab) and Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) – voted no. Only Steve Livingston (R-Scottsboro) voted to move the bill forward and let the people decide. The Senate voted 20-15 in favor of the bill, but 21 “yays’’ were needed.

The governor, a Republican and native of Wilcox County, didn’t touch on the failed gambling bill during her address, though she said afterward that her “interests in that bill was to give the people the chance to vote and I’m sorry they didn’t get that chance.”

In her address she did speak on other topical interests: the automotive industry, education and a new science high school to complement the local school of cyber technology and engineering, state finances, lane expansion on I-565 and Huntsville’s cutting edge technology that made it, she said, “the space capital of the world.’’

(Huntsville-Madison County Chamber/Facebook)

She also announced her signing of Senate Bill 231, sponsored by Orr and Rep. Scott Stadthagen, that will prevent companies that voluntarily recognize an employee union or hold a non-secret ballot process from receiving state economic incentives. 

The law became effective immediately on the same day workers at Tuscaloosa’s Mercedes-Benz plant began voting on whether or not to join the United Auto Workers union. Talk among the company and the employees has been contentious.

“When we think about what drives our success as a state, an industry that comes to mind is one of our crown jewel industries, automotive manufacturing,” she said. “Let me make something real clear: Alabama is not Michigan. Huntsville and Tuscaloosa, they’re not Detroit. While the other automakers have closed plants and had layoffs, the (original equipment manufacturer’) here in Alabama have continued to grow and thrive. As governor, it’s my priority to keep it that way.

(Huntsville-Madison County Chamber/Facebook)

“This week in Tuscaloosa starting (Monday) through Friday, we have a secret ballot taking place at the Mercedes plant. It is my hope that every worker there votes. It’s crucial that every voice is heard. We want to ensure that Alabama values, not Detroit values, continue to define the future of this great state.”

Ivey said she was “proud’’ to sign the bill into law.

“My message is clear,’’ she said. “I’m standing up for Alabamians and protecting our jobs.’’

Other topics Ivey broached:

  • Education  

– “Since I’ve been governor we have seen a 24% base pay increase for teachers.”

– “My number one legislative priority was to pass an education savings account plan to help more families choose an education that best suits their child’s needs. We did that with the passage of the Choose Act.”

– “We are blessed to have a handful of specialty schools like Huntsville’s own (Alabama) School of Cyber Technology and Engineering. And tomorrow I’ll travel to Demopolis to make official the Alabama School of Healthcare Sciences.”

  • Economic development

– “I recently shared that during my time as governor Alabama has seen investments totaling $49 billion, which has created some 87,000 new jobs.”

  • Workforce

– “While our unemployment rate remains historically low, our labor force participation rate stands only at 57.4 percent, one of the lowest in the nation … We must shift our focus to labor force participation rate. The administration remains committed to doing just that.”

  • Business

– “We formed Innovate Alabama and today we lead most of our neighboring states in the increase in new business applications.”

  • Broadband

– “When we greatly lacked adequate broadband across the state, we joined together through Connect Alabama, which has moved our state from 47th to 24th in the nation in high speed internet accessibility.”

  • I-565

– “I’m proud to report that at the end of this month we are building the last five-mile section of Interstate 565. This runs from County Line Road to the old Triana interchange. When it’s all said and done, all of I-565 will be six lanes across.”


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