The staff at the Alabama Policy Institute is makin’ a list and checkin’ it twice. Want to find out who’s naughty or nice? See our list below of our best and worst for this year in Alabama. Who makes your list? Join the conversation via Twitter and Facebook. Merry Christmas!
Nice: Tax Credit Scholarship Fund has reached 80% Capacity. Alabama taxpayers have officially bought into the opportunity that the Accountability Act’s tax credit scholarship program brings to students seeking educational choice. Even though the Act only became law in May, taxpayers have already reserved $19.5 million (of the possible $25 million) in tax credits which send their tax dollars (up to $7,500) directly to a scholarship granting organization charged with distributing scholarships to eligible students assigned to failing schools.
Naughty: Massive Waste Uncovered at Alabama State University. Governor Bentley’s office released a forensic audit showing massive amounts of fraud, waste, and mismanagement by ASU officials. Instead of trying to fix the problems, the university’s officials called the report “flawed” and filed a lawsuit against the auditor. Among the peculiar findings: over $200,000 paid to relatives of University trustee Marvin Wiggins and nearly $80,000 paid to an inflatables company owned by a relative of trustee Elton Dean. Bah, humbug!
Nice: Alabamians Can Expect Lower Power Bills. The Alabama Public Service Commission (PSC) faced staunch resistance from local and national environmental groups during rate review hearings this year. While six coal plants will be shut down, the environmentalists want to completely eliminate the coal industry in Alabama. Shuttering these plants would have likely led to an increase in unemployment and electricity rates. Instead, SC voted for historic rate reductions for all electricity providers in the state, guaranteeing this Christmas and Christmases future are sure to be merry and bright, not dark and dreary. A lump of coal goes to those who disregard the billion dollar impact the coal industry has each year on Alabama’s economy!
Naughty: Birmingham Food Trucks Hit a Speed Bump at the City Council. Just in time for Christmas, the Birmingham City Council passed an ordinance designed to rein in Birmingham’s food truck industry. The council’s action is nothing more than a blatant attempt to protect downtown restaurants from the competition presented by the growing number of food trucks in the area. The new regulations include the requirement of a $300 operating permit, limiting the trucks’ hours of operation, and the arbitrary banning of food trucks within 150 feet of an existing restaurant. The pilgrimage of entrepreneurial food truck operators to Birmingham’s downtown has played a big role in the appeal of the area to locals. Besides, anyone wanting to restrict food truck availability hasn’t had the crispy catfish and slaw from Shindigs. Now that should make the “nice” list.
Naughty: Alabama’s Judicial System Continues to be Underfunded. While the AEA pushed for raises for education employees, the Court system’s funding was cut yet again. Court officials were left begging for a conditional $8.5 million appropriation (of which $2 million was given) just to prevent further layoffs. Alabama’s Constitution mandates adequate and reasonable financing for the entire unified judicial system. It also requires due process and right to a trial by jury —rights that are jeopardized without a fully functioning court system.
Nice: Alabama Lands Major Manufacturing Contracts. If Santa’s sleigh breaks down in Alabama, he need not worry. Airbus recently broke ground on a new $600 million plant in Mobile that will ultimately bring nearly 5,000 jobs to the region. Dothan landed a $12 million commercial jet investment while Huntsville remains attractive to Boeing and other aerospace manufacturers. In Vance, Mercedes has opened a new auto parts logistics center that will employ nearly 600 people. These high-paying job opportunities are sure to bring many Alabamians cheer in the New Year. As a nod to these successes, Governor Bentley was awarded chairmanship of the Economic Development and Commerce Committee for the National Governors Association.
Naughty: Poarch Creek Indians Open New Casino. In 2009, the Alabama Supreme Court clearly defined bingo, rendering specific electronic gaming machines illegal. After multiple court rulings and several raids on bingo halls throughout the state, citizens finally thought the bingo battle was over. Claiming an exemption from state anti-gambling laws, the Poarch Creek Indians just opened their third casino in the state of Alabama. The Alabama Attorney General’s Office continues to challenge the Band’s authority to do, offering a variety of legal theories supporting the tribe’s obligation to follow Alabama’s gaming laws. Is that the jingling of sleigh bells we hear or the clinking of coins pouring from slot machines?