Ivey challenges lawmakers to use federal funds for COVID-19 aid effectively

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FILE – In this Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019, file photo, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey visits for homecoming festivities during the first half of an NCAA college football game between Alabama and Arkansas, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Ivey fractured her shoulder after being tripped by the state’s “first dog,” her office said Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020. The rescue pooch unintentionally tripped the governor at home Tuesday night, Ivey’s office said. (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt, File)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WDHN) — Gov. Kay Ivey issued a statement explaining her beliefs over the use of the CARES Act funds issued by President Donald Trump to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ivey said she spoke with House General Fund Chairman Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, about her desire to have the Legislature control the money in its entirety.

“I made it clear to Chairman Clouse that this money belongs to the people of Alabama, not the Governor and, in my opinion, not even the Legislature,” she said. “It comes to us in an emergency appropriation from President Trump and Congress to support the ongoing crisis that has killed 349 Alabamians, as of this moment, and wreaked havoc on our state’s economy, ruining small businesses and costing more than 430,000 Alabamians a job they had just a few weeks ago.”

Ivey said she never wanted to control the money herself and challenged the Legislature to handle the money responsibly.

“I promised Chairman Clouse that my Administration will send over to the Legislature the receipts for items such as PPE, medical supplies, testing kits and the like; items that have been needed and procured to support our health care system including our hospitals and nursing homes,” she said. “I trust the Legislature will honor these expenses.

However, Ivey also stated that with the Legislature’s decision to control the CARES Act funds, this could affect the rate at which citizens could get help from the state.

“We have heard from countless cities and counties who are suffering from the effects of this pandemic; we’ve heard from colleges and universities, the K-12 system and a whole host of others who had hoped this money would be made available in a timely fashion,” she said. “Regretfully, because of the Legislature’s decision – at this last moment – these groups will now have to appeal to the 140 members for help.”

As for the possibility of a special session, Ivey said she would not call lawmakers back into a special session unless they could provide a detailed list of how each cent of the CARES Act money would be spent. This list would have to be made available to the public beforehand.

“I have already seen one “wish list” that includes a new $200 million statehouse for the Legislature,” she said. “To me, that is totally unacceptable and not how President Trump and Congress intended for this money to be spent.”

To Ivey, transparency is especially important during the health crisis.

“We look forward to seeing their proposed budget,” she said. “It is obvious the Legislature has more work to do.”

Further controls

The Alabama Legislature has also sought to put more controls on the governor when it comes to states of emergency.

Sen. Tom Whatley, R-Auburn, filed a bill this week to make legislators more involved in the decision to extend such orders.

Alabama currently allows states of emergency to automatically expire after 60 days unless the governor or a joint resolution from the State Legislature extends it.

Whatley’s bill would end states of emergency after 14 days instead, requiring a joint resolution to extend it.

His bill also requires the governor to sign state health orders for them to take effect. Under current law, the only person required to sign such orders is the state health officers. 

“This bill simply improves the system of checks and balances in the state when a state of emergency has been declared,” Whatley said. “This legislation would require the Governor to sign a state of emergency declaration and limit the time that the state can operate in a state of emergency without approval from both chambers of the Legislature. Currently the State Health officer, who is appointed by a special interest group of doctors and not elected by the people, has the ability to close down all businesses in the state without consent from anybody who has received a single vote from an Alabama citizen.”

Whatley said the governor would still have emergency powers, but under this bill, more elected officials would be involved when making decisions concerning the stability of the state.

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