Super Tuesday State Power Initiatives Win, Lose

Gov. Kay Ivey presiding as president of the Alabama Board of Education, flanked by board members Stephanie Bell, left, and Ella Bell, right. Photo by Jamie Martin, Governor’s Office

She’s an accidental governor of sorts, elected after the state’s previous chief executive couldn’t keep his hand on the tiller, yet Gov. Kay Ivey has built a reputation as a popular and effective leader.

Political happenings in early March, with business underpinnings, bore that out about half way. Ivey-back initiatives, one, to tighten state control over city revenue choices and, another, to take control over the popular election of school board members, split 50-50.

Ivey on March 3 signed into law a bill that gives the state authority to oversee occupational taxes. It sets up an interesting contest between Goat Hill and Montgomery, which approved a 1 percent occupational tax ordinance in late February.

Ivey and the Republican majority oppose occupational taxes, saying they’re an unfair burden on people who live outside cities and commute in but lack a vote in city elections.

Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed promised to explore “all legal options” in the showdown. “The Governor’s signature on House Bill 147 will not stop our opposition to this overreaching legislation and its assault on local governance and home rule,” he said in a statement.

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Ivey did come up short on Super Tuesday with her backing of Amendment One, seeking to move selection of state school board members from election to appointment. It tanked by a wide margin, with 75 percent of voters casting ballots opposing the change.

Other forces were on the losing side of that ballot as well. Alabama business interests, including ALFA, reportedly spent to the tune of a half-million dollars in support of the amendment, which called for replacing the eight members of the Alabama Board of Education with a nine-member commission appointed by the governor.

The drubbing brought this statement from gubernatorial Press Secretary Gina Maiola: “Amendment One was a bold and ambitious effort to transform our state’s public schools. Governor Ivey was willing to step out and support this idea because she firmly believed leadership – and change – started with the Board itself.

“Tonight, however, it appears the fear of losing the right to elect our State School Board members was greater than the confidence we had that fundamental change could be made. While disappointed, the governor’s resolve to improve our public education system remains intact.”

Joe Biden won the nod over Bernie Sanders in the Alabama Democratic primary, which was no surprise, but Jeff Sessions found himself in a runoff with former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville. That brought tweeted taunts from President Donald Trump, who said his former U.S. Attorney lacked “wisdom or courage.”

The runoff was set for March 31.

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