State of the State: Ivey to harken back to 1920 for parallels on modern problems

State of the State: Ivey to harken back to 1920 for parallels on modern problems

By TODD STACY, Alabama Daily News

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The annual Regular Session of the Alabama Legislature begins this week. That, combined with the Primary Elections one month away, make this “prime time” in Alabama Politics.

The legislative issues are well known: budgets flush with cash but with a lot more demands; the prison crisis and the various proposals to address it; the annual gambling fight, from a lottery to the Poarch Creek Indians’ grand casino proposal; a big push to legalize medical marijuana; an expansion of mental health services; the list goes on. Alabama Daily News’ Mary Sell has written a thorough story previewing these topics and others, which is available HERE.

Kicking off the session Tuesday night will be Gov. Kay Ivey when she delivers her annual State of the State address at 6:30 p.m. Central Time. As Inside Alabama Politics reported in January, the speech might not be widely televised beyond Alabama Public Television, but it will be streamed live via the Governor’s newly-designed website at governor.alabama.gov.

It’s hard to compete for news coverage with President Donald Trump’s State of the Union, which takes place at 8:00 p.m. Central Time. However, Ivey does have the ability to set the tone for the session among the people that matter in this situation: the state lawmakers in the room.

While Ivey has kept most of her plans close to the vest, ADN got a sneak peek at the themes of the speech, plus some photos of Ivey rehearsing in the Old House Chamber.

Ivey plans to set that tone by harkening back to state history and drawing interesting parallels with the present. One hundred years ago in 1920, Gov. Thomas Kilby addressed the Legislature in the very spot where Ivey will Tuesday in the Old House Chamber. His speech was to a special session (the Legislature met every two years back then) called to address the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. That amendment gave women the right to vote, yet the State of Alabama had rejected it in 1919. In fact, Alabama wouldn’t officially ratify the 19th amendment until more than 30 years later. It’s interesting and significant that in 1920 the Legislature had to be dragged into allowing women to vote, and 100 years later Gov. Ivey will address the body as the state’s second female governor.

In another parallel, Kilby asked lawmakers to focus their attention on addressing a prison crisis. An “alarming increase in crime” had led to overcrowding in the state’s penitentiaries, and Kilby noted that “Present facilities for enforcing the laws are entirely inadequate.” 100 years later the state is back in the middle of a prison crisis, which Ivey is expected to discuss at length Tuesday night. As she does, expects these and other interesting parallels back to the start of the first Roaring Twenties.

First two pages of Gov. Thomas Kilby’s message to the Legislature in 1920.