Capitol Report for July 2013

It’s certainly good to see the construction beginning on our two schools destroyed by the tornados of 2011, those being Hackleburg and Phil Campbell.

I had the opportunity to visit Hackleburg and Phil Campbell this week to check on the status of the re-building.

All of us wish that it could be done quicker and faster but we all know construction takes time and we want it to be done correctly. I look forward to the day that we can be cutting the ribbons on these two important new schools for our Senate District.

It was also good to get to drive on the new four-lane side of Hwy 24, also known as Corridor V, coming out of Red Bay this week. You may rest assured that I will continue to work hard to see that this road construction continues. It is a little frustrating at times, especially between Hackleburg and Hamilton, to be held up for the re-surfacing but we all know that we need this progress to improve our roads.

I will also continue to work hard to see that our tax dollars are returned to our Senate District to continue these road improvements. All of our counties and cities are moving forward with the ATRIP and RAMP Programs which we passed in the Alabama Legislature. This will allow a multi year build out which will provide not only safer roads but encourage people to travel to our area.

When it comes to traveling, if you haven’t been to Hodges yet to see their new equestrian trail, I encourage you to go. At their first ride they had over 200 riders from many different counties and states. This is an example of how eco tourism can help our area. God has blessed Northwest Alabama with many beautiful areas and scenic trails.

This is a way that we can have additional tax revenue by not raising taxes. When we attract people into our area as eco tourist, they spend money at our restaurants, grocery stores and gas stations among other places, which generates new tax dollars.

It is very similar to attracting a new industry into our area, and when it comes to new industries it is good to see the continued growth in the Shoals with the recent announcement of Shoals Lighting and their plans for a $36 million dollar expansion.

Many of us are continuing to put the pressure on Governor Bentley including Dr. David Bronner the head of the retirement systems of the State of Alabama, to accept the Medicaid roll out.

This Medicaid roll out paid 100 percent by the Federal Government for the first 3 years and then gradually backing down over the next 3 years to where the Federal Government will pay 90 percent and the State 10 percent would create 10,000 new jobs in Alabama.

It would also cover 350,000 Alabamians, many who are currently working and paying taxes but do not have health insurance offered by their employer and\or can not afford it in the private work place.

This would be 350,000 more consumers that our local hospitals, doctors, dentist, and pharmacists would have calling and paying for their services. In fact statewide 50 percent of the babies born in Alabama were paid for with Medicaid dollars.

Medicaid is one of the biggest economic engines in Alabama. 78 percent of the nursing home beds in Alabama are paid for by Medicaid dollars. 38 percent children in Alabama currently get their primary health care through Medicaid dollars. As you know a healthy child is better able to learn.

With Medicaid acting as the medical provider payer for children, they can go to the doctor and get preventive health care rather than showing up in the emergency room needing acute care, which is much more expensive.

This past week I saw the first rail car assembled in our Senate District at Barton River Front Industrial Park. The yellow, 57-foot long, flat rail car on display for the public to see at our meeting was the first that FreightCar America assembled at the Barton River Front Industrial Park.

As many of you know we had hoped that the rail car plant would have been up to full capacity by now but due to the economy they have not until present been producing rail cars.

FreightCar and NaviStar Corporation celebrated FreightCar starting production at the Barton plant. For those of you that have been following this story you know that company officials announced in February that they were subleasing about 25 percent of the NaviStar Corporation plant with plans to build up 7,000 rail cars annually.

This would mean new jobs in our area, and good paying jobs. FreightCar officials have said they plan to have 200 workers on the site by the end of the year and 400 by the end of 2014.

One of the company’s officials said that the plant will have 400 to 500 employees when reaching full production but the time line depends on market conditions. I am proud to say that about 70 FreightCar workers are already employed at the plant, NaviStar officials said their company has about 180 workers now. You may rest assured that I will continue to fight for jobs in our Senate District and to maintain the industries, which we have here.

Another milestone to mark the rebuilding of Franklin and Marion County the brand new Mountain View Baptist Church, will soon have their first services in their new building.

You will recall that the Mountain View Baptist Church was basically destroyed by the tornado of April 27, 2011.

Congratulations goes out to Pastor Sammy Taylor, the Deacons and the membership of Mountain View Baptist Church for having the faith and will power to build back even bigger, better and stronger. Our prayers and heartfelt best wishes go out to them.

Congratulations also go out to Glenda Colagross, Vice President of Instructions at Northwest Shoals Community College.

She has been named the interim President of Southern Union State Community College in South Alabama effective August 1st.

She has done a fine job at NWSCC having served in her first full time position in 1992. We wish her well and I know that she will be a welcomed edition to Southern Union State Community College.

It is always a fun time in the summer when the W.C Handy Music Festival kicks off as it has done this week.

There are literally dozen of different events that you can attend, many of which are free and open to the public. This also coincides with the 12th Annual Blue Grass Festival.

Bevill State Community College has received $50,000 in Appalachian Regional Commission funds, which will be used to fund a permanent facility at Bevill State Community College Fayette Campus for electrical systems training.

This new facility and new equipment will help to better train students, adults and eventually offer training to high school students in the surrounding area.

Appalachian Regional Commission funds in the amount of $50,000, State funds in the amount of $94,000 combined with a local match of $35,6000 will provide total project funds in the amount of $180,000.

It was good to have Gov. Bentley in Red Bay this past week. It enabled him to have an opportunity to tour Alegro Motor Homes, one of the leading industries in our Senate District and State while also meeting with local officials.

It was the Governors first visit to Red Bay and I was proud to be there to help welcome him. Governor Bentley also had an opportunity to look at several highway projects that are underway and we are also trying to get his help to speed up the completion of these projects.

I think it is very important to complete the projects that are underway, I am also working to get the new ATRIP and RAMPS funded road projects going throughout our Senate District. This will help create jobs and help stimulate our economy.

It is hard to believe that the summer will soon be over and school will soon be starting.

I have spoken with several teachers over the past two weeks that are already gearing up and looking forward to projects that need to be done for their classrooms and the school.

I want to thank all of you that have been keeping in touch with me by phone, e-mail, U.S mail, and in person.

I want to hear from you about your thoughts and concerns on the issues facing us locally and at the State level. This helps me do a better job for you.


Roger Bedford is a state senator for Franklin County.