For the past 11 years I have served the citizens of Alabama, representing Baldwin County and the Gulf Coast area in the Alabama State Senate. As a firm believer in the value of term limits and the idea of citizen-legislators, I have decided to not seek re-election and to allow others to step forward and serve.
As a departing member of the Baldwin County legislative team, I want to say a few words about all that has been accomplished for the citizens of South Alabama.
First, thanks to Rep. (and delegation Chairman) Randy Davis from Daphne, Rep. Joe Faust of Fairhope and Rep. Steve McMillan of south Baldwin County, it is now easier for coastal homeowners to claim insurance discounts for construction that fortifies a home against wind damage. Following hurricanes Ivan and Katrina in 2004 and 2005, home insurance premiums skyrocketed on the coast.
The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill was a crisis for the coast, and the Baldwin County delegation worked hard to make sure that coastal residents were fairly reimbursed for damages. In addition to settlements with Mobile, Fairhope and Baldwin County, BP in 2016 agreed to pay the state of Alabama approximately $1 billion for economic damages to the entire state.
As you may recall, this set off an intense battle in the state Legislature. Some northern Alabama lawmakers argued that the coast shouldn’t receive any of the state’s settlement with BP, and that all of the funds should go to Medicaid and debt repayments. Even though we were outnumbered six-to-one, coastal lawmakers held our ground, worked the process and garnered support from other thoughtful legislators to secure $120 million for infrastructure projects in Baldwin and Mobile counties.
Funded with other BP monies, the new lodge at Gulf State Park is set to open in November, 14 years after the previous facility was torn down after damage from Hurricane Ivan. The lodge will include 350 guest rooms and 40,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor event space. For years, the Baldwin County delegation worked hard to pass enabling legislation sponsored by Rep. McMillan, and we worked closely with former governors Bob Riley and Robert Bentley and Gov. Kay Ivey to finance and facilitate the rebuilding of the lodge and meeting place.
Since 2010, I have served as chairman of either the education trust fund or the state general fund budgets. I am deeply proud of the work conservative Republicans have done to put Alabama’s finances on a stable footing. From 1980-2011, the education budget was prorated 11 times, but since the Republican majority passed the Rolling Reserve Act in 2011, which I sponsored in the Senate, proration has not occurred a single time. That fiscal discipline allowed the Legislature to give teachers a 4 percent pay raise in 2016 and a 2.5 percent pay raise this year, pay back $437 million in debt and put aside over $200 million dollars in the education budget stabilization account.
It has been an honor to serve with Baldwin County’s capable legislative team. I want to personally thank each of you for your service to our constituents in South Alabama, and for putting up with me.
To the citizens of Baldwin County: It has been the privilege of a lifetime to represent you in the Alabama Legislature. Thank you.