The political science department Tuesday hosted a special event featuring three cabinet secretaries and a policy advisor from Gov. Robert Bentley’s office.

The Action Institute from Grand Rapids hosted the event entitled, “Opportunity and Merit: Building Alabama’s Future.”

John-Bauer Graham, Dean of Library Services, welcomed guests to the 11th floor of the Houston Cole Library. President, John M. Beehler, introduced the first guest speaker, Jeanna Ross — a cabinet official and Secretary of the Department of Early Childhood Development.

Ross spoke about the First Class Pre-K program which, according to Ross, prepares four-year-olds for kindergarten, increases graduation rates, increases college attendance, reduces crime and delinquency.

“It’s not just assessments that we’re seeing huge differences in. They’re reporting that these children have initiative, and with initiative comes resiliency that we need our adults to have, as well,” Ross said.

Joanne Hale, a cabinet official and acting Secretary of Information Technology, spoke next.

Hale introduced the Cares program, which takes and verifies information a person provides when applying for government programs, and checks potential eligibility for other programs.

Cares is beneficial because those who apply for government help often have problems going to multiple offices, or do not believe they would qualify for other programs, according to Hale.

Another program, First Net, creates a network for first responders at the state, county, tribal and municipal levels to communicate safely and efficiently.

Hale said Alabama is trying to reinvent the DMV system so that more tasks, like renewing a license or changing a name, can be done on a kiosk or online to help diminish long lines at offices.

Jim Byard Jr., a cabinet official, spoke about being the director of the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs. Byard mentioned the programs and the local impact of ADECA. His main advice was “do for one as if you could do for all, and be present in the moment.”

David White, a policy advisor, spoke about the health care issues in Alabama. He spoke about the possible dangers of the state ending Medicaid, which currently covers “roughly one million, mostly kids,” according to White.

White declared that all should be concerned with Medicaid.

“If it goes under, Children’s Hospital goes. Most of your rural hospitals are gone. Most of your pediatricians are gone. Dentists, too. Don’t think ‘I’m middle class, I have Blue Cross. I don’t care.’ Yeah, that’s fine. But you may go to a doctor that leaves or a hospital that shuts down without Medicaid,” he said.

Newly-elected JSU Chief Justice Amy Sims said she is interested in having a bike lane in Jacksonville, and that the event helped provide her direction on how to start her plan.

“Jim Byard had a lot of good information on how to get funds, grants, and all sorts of information on how to get something community-oriented, like a bike lane,” Sims said.

“I hope that once I take office, I can get more information on it and see how much headway we can make.”

Alissa Camplin
Staff Reporter

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