By Paul DeMarco
As we start a new year, we can now look back at the stories that made the news in 2019.
In January, Governor Kay Ivey was sworn into office after being elected for a full term outright after serving a stint leading the state after the resignation of Robert Bentley. The Alabama House of Representatives and Senate then convened with a record number of freshmen for a new session.
The governor did not waste any time getting to business with the proposal of a controversial ten cents per gallon gasoline tax, The bill passed with large majorities in both chambers of the legislature despite strong public opposition. Bills that would have weakened the state’s ethics law, legalize marijuana and create a state lottery all failed. A bill that would completely ban abortion in the state and for which proponents hope will lead to overturning Roe versus Wade passed.
Meanwhile, Alabama passed one of its largest education budgets ever this past year, unfortunately, what made the news were results that showed Alabama scoring last in the Nation in math scores.
In the spring, the United States Justice Department issued a report alleging serious problems with violence and overcrowding in the the state corrections system that would require immediate attention from the state. The governor proposed the construction of three new prisons and the legislature budgeted millions of dollars to hire more guards in response.
This was one of the worst years in recent memory for crime. There were several incidents of kidnappings and assault involving children and tragic murders due to domestic violence. In addition, the number of law enforcement killed in the line of duty was at a tragic high. The only positive criminal justice news this year was the successful reform to the state’s long-troubled Board of Pardons and Paroles that has lead to fewer violent felons being released on the streets.
The governor had a cancer scare this fall and announced that she had completed a round of radiation treatments for a tumor on one of her lungs, but that her doctors expected her to make a full recovery.
Finally, the state ended the year on a positive note with the announcement that the unemployment rate was at the lowest in state history. While more folks were working in the state, wages were also up according to the Alabama Department of Labor.
Alabama’s Bicentennial year will be one to remember.
Paul DeMarco is a former member of the Alabama House of Representatives