Carnley, Hammett speak at AACC’s Legislative Luncheon

Published 11:00 am Wednesday, May 10, 2023

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State Senator Josh Carnley and State Representative Matthew Hammett were the featured speakers at the Andalusia Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual Legislative Luncheon event hosted by PowerSouth on Monday.

Both legislators were elected to their current offices in the 2022 election.

Hammett, who serves Alabama House District 92, spoke about his time in Montgomery and the current legislative session.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at the State House so far. The two men who held this position before me are legends — Mike Jones and Seth Hammett. I’m working hard to get there. Allen Baker of Escambia County has become my mentor and has been a tremendous help. I also serve on the Wiregrass Delegation. We have relationships from Dothan to Mobile and we all share the same vision and try to stick together. To be successful we have to work together and build relationships,” Hammett said.

He serves on the Agriculture and Forestry, County and Municipal Government, and Urban and Rural Development committees.

“I’m proud to be on the Urban and Rural Development committee because that is where we are from, a rural part of the state,” he said. “I think being on that committee, as well as the Municipal and County Government committee, helps me to be in a good spot down the road.”

Hammett also spoke about the special and current legislative sessions.

“I’m proud that we paid off $60 million of debt to the Alabama Trust Fund. We gave $225 million for rural broadband, which is a big need and I’m proud we are working to get broadband to all of our residents. We also provided $100 million for reimbursements to nursing homes and hospitals. I think that is a huge deal. We have to do what we can to help our community hospitals,” Hammett said.

In the current regular session, Hammett said the House has approved a 2 percent cost-of-living raise for state employees, 10 percent increase for the Alabama Department of Corrections,  8 percent increase for the Alabama Medicaid Agency, 35 percent increase for the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, 8 percent increase for the Alabama Department of Mental Health, as well as increases for the Alabama Forestry Service, which includes increased funding for the state’s volunteer fire departments.

“If you live in a rural area you know how important volunteer fire departments are,” he said.

Other bills that have passed the House that Hammett highlighted included one that increases prison sentences for those convicted of selling of fentanyl.

“I did not realize how dangerous fentanyl is. One pack, about the amount in your Sweet & Low packets, can kill 500 people. It is very serious and I’m proud we are taking charge and toughening the punishment for those who are dealing it,” he said.

The House also passed a bill that eliminates a 5 percent tax on overtime wages.

Carnley, who represents District 31, spoke on the issues in the Alabama Senate.

“The biggest thing you do in Montgomery is build relationships. I’m grateful for the opportunity to work with people I’ve come to know. They have become valuable resources to me. I rely on them as experts in their field.

Following the special session to deal with ARPA [COVID] funding, Carnley said the current regular session has seen the extension of the state’s Jobs Act.

“One of the big items we tackled [in the regular session] was the Jobs Act. The current bill sunsets in July. We tweaked some things, but extended it through July 2028. It is a very beneficial program for the state. We are competing with other states and if you are not competitive you won’t get a chance at some of these economic development projects. There is a lot of good things that come from these programs,” Carnley said.

The State Senate has also passed the Education Trust Fund budget, which still has to pass the House.

“A lot of work went into it. We all may not agree with what to do with the money, but we all share a goal of having providing Alabama students with the best education possible,” Carnley said.

He also spoke about school choice.

“We can talk about school choice all day long, but there are parts of the state where school choice means nothing. There are a lot of variables there, but we do need to be careful not to leave students behind.”

Carnley also spoke about the budget that passed the State Senate.

“We didn’t spend $2.7 billion allocated for education. We have an opportunity to be good stewards of this money and I hope we don’t let politics get involved. We have to be diligent with the money and what is proposed is placing $500 million in an Education Opportunity Fund so it will be there in the case there is a reduction in the Education Trust Fund.”

Others participating in the luncheon included: Jennifer McClung, vice-president of the chamber board; Lora McClendon, government and public affairs representative with PowerSouth; Judge William Alverson; Mellisa King, chamber president; Ginny Grimes, legislative chair for the chamber; and Scott Rogers, Richard Moore, and Jason Gunter performed an instrumental version of “The Star Spangled Banner.”