Dear Friends,

As we all prepare to close the books on 2016, I want to reflect on some of the key initiatives I had the privilege to participate in which have positively impacted our State during this past year.

Alabama Veteran Owned Business Recognition

Alabama announced a new way of recognizing veteran owned businesses in our State with the distribution of display decals. Veterans in Alabama own about 25,000 small businesses. I was proud to join Governor Bentley, Congresswoman Martha Roby, General Larry Ross and Billy Cotter to make the announcement on Tuesday, January 19. The stickers are made available from the efforts of the Alabama Veterans Network (AlaVetNet), Military Stability Commission and the Alabama Small Business Commission.

2016 Legislative Session

A highlight of the 2016 Regular Legislative Session was Alabama’s Education Trust Fund Budget (ETF), which passed with overwhelming support. The ETF totaled $6.3 billion and is 5.6% more than the current education budget. It is the largest ETF budget since 2008. The ETF budget included a pay raise for teachers - the first in nearly a decade -  and includes increased funding for Pre-K, school-related transportation and classroom updates all while providing positions for 475 new teachers. On April 21st, I was honored to sign this historic ETF budget.  I applaud all of the legislators who worked to see it come to fruition.

Governor’s Trade Excellence Awards

Alabama exports are an engine for the State’s growth and job creation. Exports from Alabama businesses create a 19.37 billion dollar industry in our State. I joined the Department of Commerce, including the Secretary of Commerce Greg Canfield, to award eight Alabama companies with a Governor’s Trade Excellence Award for their productive exports out of our State. The awards were given to Life Data Labs, Inc. of Cherokee; Aker Solutions, Inc. of Mobile; GATR Technologies of Huntsville; Linden Lumber, LLC of Linden; MapuSoft Technologies of Mobile; MMI Outdoors, Inc. of Montgomery; Schreiber, LLC of Trussville; and TriVector Services, Inc. of Huntsville.

Alabama Aerospace Week

Aerospace in Alabama is a multi-billion-dollar industry that employs nearly 83,000 people at over 400 aerospace companies across our State. In March, the Aerospace Legislative Caucus hosted the Annual Aerospace Week and NASA Day. The Marshall Space Flight Center Director Todd May, NASA Astronaut Stephen Bowen and Congressman Mo Brooks came to educate legislators about Alabama’s part in designing and crafting the new NASA Space Flight Center to prepare astronauts to make the first ever journey to the planet Mars.

The “Fort Payne Seven” Place in National Competition

The Real World Design Challenge (RWDC) is an annual competition for students in high school. RWDC gives students the opportunity to work on real world engineering challenges in a team environment. RWDC held their National Championship that included 27 teams from 26 states and one territory. This year’s competition focused on unmanned systems and precision agriculture through the design and implementation of an Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) to support agricultural efforts like the targeted and efficient application of pesticide. RWDC is sponsored by the Aerospace States Association.

The fourth-year reigning Alabama RWDC champions, the “Fort Payne Seven”, from Fort Payne High School in Fort Payne, Alabama, placed second in the national challenge out of 19 teams. This year’s team members are: Reagan Anderson (Senior), Joshua Johnston (Senior), Emma Simpson (Junior), Hunter Terry (Senior), Hunter Vezertzis (Senior), Matthew Wilding (Senior), and Noah Wofford (Junior).

Alabama State Senator Steve Livingston recognized and honored the “Fort Payne Seven” for their exceptional achievement on the Senate Floor during the March 10th Legislative Session.

Tuskegee Airmen Celebrate 75th Anniversary

On March 22, 1941, the Tuskegee Airmen became the first group of African American fighter pilots and personnel to answer the call during World War II, despite racial inequity and poverty barriers. This year marks the 75th Anniversary to celebrate the National Heroes who changed the course of our State and Nation. Ten of the living Tuskegee Airmen were present to celebrate the commemorative occasion. I was proud to present a Senate Resolution with Alabama State Senator Billy Beasley honoring the Tuskegee Airmen to Brigadier General Leon Johnson, National President of the Tuskegee Airmen, Inc.

DeMarcus Ware Recognized as Honorary Lieutenant Governor

DeMarcus Ware was recognized as an Honorary Lieutenant Governor during a Joint Legislative Session of the Alabama Legislature on April 19, 2016. Ware represents Alabama well as the most recent NFL Super Bowl Champion with the Denver Broncos where he starts on defense as an outside linebacker.  Ware is a former Troy University football standout and a native of Auburn, Alabama.

Airbus First Delivery to Jet Blue Airways

In 2012, Airbus, one of the largest aircraft manufactures in the world, chose Brookley Field in Mobile, Alabama, to build an aircraft assembly line to produce the A320 family jetliner and employ up to 1,000 people. At full production, Airbus is expected to produce between 40 and 50 aircraft each year. In July 2015, Airbus officially began assembly. In April 2016, Airbus delivered the first American-built A320 aircraft “Blues Mobile” to JetBlue Airways.

I was proud to attend the delivery of the first Airbus A320 aircraft made in Alabama. The world was watching when Airbus chose Alabama to invest in its first U.S.-based production facility. Thank you, Airbus, for investing in Alabama.

Groundbreaking of Boeing PAC-3 Missile Seeker Facility Expansion

Boeing announced the groundbreaking of a new 28,000-square-foot building for their Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) Missile Seeker program to be completed in Huntsville, Alabama, by May of 2017. The expansion will create 70 full-time engineering and manufacturing jobs.

Also, Boeing announced in November that they will be adding approximately 400 jobs to the Huntsville site between now and the year 2020. These jobs will be in the fields of engineering, advanced manufacturing and administrative support. Boeing plays a huge role in the defense of our Nation and the economy of our State. I am proud Boeing calls Alabama home. 

American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Public Service Award

The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) hosted their annual Aerospace Spotlight Awards Gala at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, June 15, 2016. At the Gala, I was honored to accept the 2016 AIAA Public Service Award with Marshall Space Flight Center Director Todd May.

The AIAA Public Service Award was established in 1986 to honor a person outside the aerospace community who has shown consistent and visible support for national aviation and space goals. Past recipients of the Public Service Award include Gene Roddenberry, Walter Cronkite, and the Great-Great Niece of Orville and Wilbur Wright, Amanda Wright Lane. As you can see from the list, it is a huge honor to join such a distinguished group. Representing Alabama for this National award is a true testament to our State’s commitment to advancing the aerospace industry. I want to say thank you to the AIAA Chapter in Huntsville for nominating me to receive this prestigious award.

Rainbow Omega Receives the Honda Excellence in Delivery Award

Rainbow Omega in Eastaboga, Alabama, was established in 1991 and provides residential and vocational programs for adults with developmental disabilities. The residents at Rainbow Omega work each day to assemble owner’s manuals for Honda vehicles manufactured all over the world. On June 23, Honda presented Rainbow Omega with the Excellence in Delivery Award for always being on time and having no mistakes. Over the last ten years, the residents at Rainbow Omega have assembled a total of 2.8 million owner’s manuals.

Aerospace States Association Meeting in Oshkosh, Wisconsin

At the Aerospace States Association (ASA) Annual Meeting in July, I had the opportunity to attend the Experimental Aircraft Association’s (EAA) AirVenture show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. The EAA Airshow is the largest airshow in the world, attracting more than 500,000 people and 10,000 airplanes. It was very exciting to see the Auburn University Aviation Program represented, as well as a number of Alabama companies.

2016 Special Session

On August 15, 2016, the Alabama Legislature was called into a Special Session by the Governor to request additional revenues through a statewide lottery. The Special Session was the third Special Session in the last 12 months, along with two Regular Sessions, for a total of five Legislative Sessions in the last 20 months.

Over the past year, the Legislature has struggled to identify an additional $85 million to fully fund Medicaid at their requested $785 million. The ever-increasing appropriation for Medicaid will continue to remain a challenge.

The most recent Special Session revolved around two main issues: the lottery and BP Settlement monies, as they relate to Medicaid funding. After the lottery proposal failed, the BP settlement monies were addressed by the Legislature. After days of debate on the different combinations of how the money would be used by the House, Senate and Conference Committee, it was enacted by both houses. The bill provides $400M to debt repayment, $120M for roads in Mobile and Baldwin Counties and $120M to Medicaid for Fiscal Year 2017 and Fiscal Year 2018. Although a solution was accomplished to fully fund Medicaid for the upcoming fiscal year, budgetary challenges remain for our upcoming sessions.

As a result of the Special Session, the Joint Legislative Task Force on Budget Reform was created by Pro Tem Marsh and Speaker McCutcheon to focus on the best way to fund state government with existing revenues. The Task Force has met each month since September and will have a final meeting in January before reporting to the Legislature during the next Regular Session which begins in February.

Million Women Mentors Summit and Gala in Washington, DC

Million Women Mentors (MWM) is a national organization supporting the advancement of one million women and girls to succeed in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) programs and careers. In October, I joined Shelia Boyington, MWM National States Chair; Arkansas Lt. Governor Tim Griffin; New Jersey Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno; and Maryland Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford at the State Panel during the Million Women Mentors Summit and Gala in Washington, DC. During the panel, I had the opportunity to share the advances our students are making in Alabama in STEM programs.

Alabama’s 187th Fighter Wing in Montgomery Makes Final Five Bases for New F-35s

Montgomery’s 187th Fighter Wing made the final cut of the top five National Guard units to receive the F-35s. The 187th Fighter Wing Commander Randy Efferson is one of two Air National Guard Lockheed Martin F-35 instructor pilots and he helped write the manuals for flying the F-35s. The 187th Fighter Wing is the only base in the top five with a direct connection to the Tuskegee Airmen Red Tails. I am confident when Air Force Officials make the final selection, Alabama will be the obvious choice.

President-elect Trump Visits Mobile During “Thank You” Tour

President-elect Donald Trump concluded his “Thank You” tour in Mobile, Alabama, on Saturday, December 17th. Almost a year to date, Alabama began to show substantial support for the President-elect. I am proud of Alabama’s role in the election and the new administration through individuals like my lifelong friend Jeff Sessions and others.

 

Through the adversity and success Alabama has faced over this past year, I am reminded of how truly blessed we are as a State. I am proud of all of our combined accomplishments on behalf of the State. As I prepare for 2017, I am encouraged that Alabama will remain the greatest State in the country. Thank you all for the opportunity to serve as your Lieutenant Governor. It is truly an honor that is not taken for granted. I pray that you and your family have a blessed New Year.