It began as a challenging, yet rewarding year. On Jan. 19, 2015, I took the oath of office for my second term as lieutenant governor. I’m grateful to the people of this great state for entrusting me with this responsibility.
The year started at a rapid pace. A week before the Inauguration, the Alabama Senate convened in an Organizational Session, where new Senate leadership was elected and new rules were adopted to help the legislative proceedings operate more effectively for the next four years. The first Regular Session of the Quadrennium started in March with the looming challenge regarding the state budgets. Although intense debates surrounded the budgets, the Education Trust Fund Budget received priority and passed in May during the Regular Session. Two very contentious Special Sessions followed and took until September to finalize a balanced General Fund Budget with reforms and limited new taxes.
One of my many proud moments came when I presided over a Joint Legislative Session honoring Alabama’s living Congressional Medal of Honor recipients, including the newest, Sgt. Major Bennie Adkins of Opelika, a true American hero.
Throughout the year, I’ve met with several dignitaries from around the world, including leaders representing Canada, Hong Kong, Ukraine and Taiwan, as well as His Excellency Cui Tiankai, China’s Ambassador to the United States. Alabama continues to attract attention from global leaders interested in trade and investment opportunities.
In my continued efforts to support our military missions in Alabama, I’m chairman of the Military Stability Commission to help our military bases in Alabama remail well positioned to meet future challenges. In addition, I participated in a welcome-home ceremony for 187th Fighter Wing members and their families. I’m grateful to the Alabama men and women who serve our country in global deployments. I also participated in a Wiregrass Sequestration Listening Forum hosted by the Department of Defense to help highlight the important role Fort Rucker plays in our national security. It’s vital we continue to improve our military assets and prepare to successfully face future evaluations of our force structure that could lead to reductions of federal military bases and missions in Alabama.
After our final Legislative Session of the year ended in October, I hosted the National Aerospace Foreign Direct Investment Exposition in Los Angeles, California, as chairman of the Aerospace States Association, along with the U.S. Department of Commerce. My friend Barry Eccleston, president of Airbus America, began his presentation with “Sweet Home Alabama” playing on the sound system at the international conference, highlighting their investment in our state. Conference participants and the aerospace industries recognize our state’s rich aerospace history, as well as continued growth with over 400 aerospace companies in Alabama.
Alabama students continue to compete at the highest levels in and out of the classroom. Most recently, the “Fort Payne Seven” from Fort Payne High School placed second out of 19 teams in the Real World Design Challenge National Championship with the successful design and development of an Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) to support precision agriculture. Alabama students have proven repeatedly they can compete globally.
As we end 2015, I was honored with this year’s Service to Agriculture Award from the Alabama Farmers Federation. It was gratifying to receive it from the people who help make agriculture the largest industry in our state.
Alabama continues to increase its presence in global markets and to be recognized as an attractive location for business investment. As a result, our unemployment rate has dropped to 5.9 percent, the lowest in our state in seven years. Even though we are not where we want to be, we continue to be trending in the right direction with more new jobs on the way.
As I reflect over this past year and prepare for the upcoming year, I am reminded of how blessed we are as a state. Thank you for the opportunity to be your lieutenant governor. I hope you and your family have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Kay Ivey is the lieutenant governor of Alabama. Elected in 2010, she was the first Republican woman to hold the office in Alabama’s history.