Governor Ivey on unmployment, prison infrastructure

LOCAL NEWS

Alabama’s Governor, Kay Ivey, visited The Shoals theater Sept. 30, 2021, where she addressed the state of Alabama at the second-annual “Evening for Progress.”

This event was presented by the Shoals Chamber of Commerce.

At 5 p.m., attendees were given the opportunity to socialize and enjoy the hors d’oeuvres catered by Southern Skillet Catering outside the theater. The doors did not officially open until 6 p.m.   

Caitlin Holland, President of the Shoals Chamber of Commerce, began the program by reflecting on the year so far, saying this year has tested Alabamians’ patience, perseverance and faith.  

“Despite all that was thrown at us, [we have] remained grounded and kept our resolve,” Holland said. “We never gave up. The same can certainly be said for the Shoals. Tonight is about that which connects us to our state capital and our fellow Alabamians.”

Following Holland was Chair Elect of Shoals Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Helen Keller Hospital, Kyle Buchannan, who opened the program with a prayer for the Shoals community. 

Once Buchannan left the podium, presenting sponsor and local attorney, Chad Smith, introduced Governor Ivey. Smith spoke on both her values and her achievements in the state of Alabama.

“Since taking her position in 2017, business has been booming in Alabama,” Smith said. “Our country, our state has faced its fair share of struggles, but under Governor Ivey’s leadership, Alabamians have thrived.” 

Smith praised Ivey’s dedication to reforming Alabama’s prison system, stating that as an attorney, he has seen the need for reform for years. 

“I believe that there is little doubt that this state is not better because of Governor Ivey,” Smith said. “It is my privilege and my honor to make this introduction for such a fine, fine person.”

Ivey was greeted by attendees of the event with a standing ovation. She waved her way to the podium and once everyone was seated, looked out at the members of the Shoals community and began her address, which lasted for ten minutes. 

She began by thanking the local legislative delegation for representing the Shoals area in Montgomery.

She discussed how Alabama has recovered from the pandemic from an economic standpoint. 

With Governor Ivey in office, unemployment for the month of August was at 3.1%, which is two points lower than the national rate, and jobs have grown at a 2% rate, equating to over 10,000 new jobs.

“Folks, this is an incredible turnaround and has absolutely nothing to do with luck,” Ivey said. “It’s happened because through our collaborative efforts, Alabama has laid a rock-solid, economic foundation that no pandemic and no natural disaster can tear down.Fortunately, our future is much more positive than it was just one year ago.”

In addition to economic growth, Ivey plans to use $400 million out of the American Rescue Plan Act, a COVID-19 relief bill, to aid in updating prison infrastructure. However, she did not mention the alocation of COVID-19 funding for these renovations in her speech. She shared that the issue is urgent, and that the Department of Justice is close to intervening with the state.

“It is a simple fact that our prison infrastructure is growing worse by the day and is incapable of truly rehabilitating inmates,” said Ivey.

Ivey stated that the prison reform legislature is neither a Republican issue or a Democratic issue, and said that her administration has worked with senators from both political parties while making these decisions. 

“What we are currently faced with is based upon decades on decades of neglect, and it’s just up to us right now to right this wrong,” Ivey said. “And while the politically popular thing to do is just bury your head in the sand and hope the problem just solves itself, it just won’t work.”

She briefly discussed the redistricting of Congressional seats throughout the state, emphasizing that despite concerns that Alabama would lose a seat, all seven seats were secured. 14 billion tax dollars result from the number of Congressional seats held by the state. Ivey was quick to point out that instead of Alabama losing a seat, California and New York did instead. 

Ivey made a push for citizens of Alabama to get their COVID-19 vaccinations. Alabama currently has the lowest vaccination rate in the United States. She stated that with the help of the vaccines, our state and nation can put the past 18 months behind us.

“While we do not have a cure for COVID-19, we do have a vaccine, and I hope each one of you will give serious consideration to taking the shot if you’ve not already done it,” Ivey said. “The problem is many folks are just hesitant to roll up their sleeves and receive their shots, which negatively impacts public health and a work force availability standpoint.”

She prompted the audience to encourage their friends and family who have not been vaccinated to at least have the conversation with their doctors.

Ivey sought to make it very clear that although she encourages her state to get vaccinated, she will never issue a mandate requiring vaccinations or support legislation to make vaccinations mandatory. 

“It is rare that I agree with much that comes out of Washington DC these days, but I did agree with  President-Elect Biden last December when he said vaccines would not be mandatory – reckon he’s getting a little forgetful?” said Ivey.

Despite making jokes about the president, she still upheld that getting vaccinated is the right thing to do and emphasized that it could save lives.

“We should not need an overreaching mandate to get us to do the right thing,” said Ivey.

She closed by stating that by using vaccinations to eliminate the spread of COVID-19, the state can move on to greater stages of success 

“Y’all, if we can just get the COVID-19 behind us once and for all, I’m as confident as I am  standing here when I say we can produce endless growth and prosperity to our great state,” said Ivey.