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Alabama fireworks: auditor blasts governor over July 3 holiday

Alabama Auditor Jim Zeigler

Alabama auditor and potential 2018 gubernatorial candidate Jim Zeigler is criticizing Gov. Kay Ivey’s relatively late decision to designate Monday as a state holiday, along with Tuesday July 4.

Zeigler, in a news release Monday, said Ivey’s June 28 announcement to grant a holiday on July 3 came as a "surprise" to the state’s workforce. Had they known earlier, he suggested, their families could have perhaps headed out on trips or planned other ways to spend time together.

"I’m not objecting to the day off. It’s the surprise of it. That’s always bothered me," said Republican Zeigler, who spent Monday at home in Mobile.

He acknowledged in the news release that abrupt announcements of off days is nothing new in Alabama. Gov. Robert Bentley, during his time in office, issued an October notice that the Friday following Thanksgiving would be a state holiday.

"If the days off were known in advance, families could plan trips. That helps tourism," said Zeigler, who called Ivey’s declaration "dramatic politics."

Ivey’s office did not respond to a request for comment about Zeigler’s news release.

Under Ivey’s declaration, essential personnel, such as state troopers, were still subject to duty.

Robyn Bryan, a spokeswoman with the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, said any essential personnel working Monday would bank their holiday, and expend it during the next week or so.

She said that state troopers who work more than 40 hours this week for holiday traffic enforcement would be paid overtime covered by state grants. She had no immediate estimate on costs.

Ivey’s declaration had a ripple effect through the state. Supreme Court Chief Justice Lyn Stewart, shortly after Ivey’s announcement, said that all state courts would be closed Monday. The city of Montgomery, on Thursday last week, announced it was closing on Monday as well.

In Huntsville, city offices remained opened on Monday, but Madison County offices were closed. Huntsville spokeswoman Kelly Schrimsher said her city makes plans "well ahead" to provide employees with holidays that they can spend with families. She added, "Huntsville publicizes the schedule in advance so businesses needing to interact with City Hall can plan ahead as well."

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle is running for governor in 2018. In a brief statement, he said "The issues facing Alabama are too serious for our Montgomery leaders to bickering over stuff."

At least one state official believes the governor’s call was the right one. "I expect some people with more time off extended their reservations at state parks or other hotels through the weekend," said Lee Sentell, director of the Alabama Tourism Department. "I know that state employees I talked with appreciated Governor Ivey giving them the extra day off. Many employees had already planned taking Monday off to bridge to a four-day weekend so some can put those eight hours back in their time-off bank."

Zeigler said, however, "I have heard many state employees say they would have planned a family trip if they had just known ahead of time. Government on the spur of the moment is no way to do business. These decisions should be made and announced ahead."

Zeigler added, "It is just common sense to decide and announce any off day well in advance."

Only eight states were giving their non-essential employees the day off before Independence Day. Among them was Mississippi, where Gov. Phil Bryant declared July 3 as a holiday on May 22.

Zeigler said he approved of the advanced notice that Bryant provided Mississippi state workers. "That would be better," he said.

Zeigler said he would have publicly raised a concern even if he weren’t flirting with a 2018 gubernatorial run.

Ivey, a Republican, has yet to make a decision on her future political intentions. Zeigler recently filed an exploratory committee in advance to a decision on running, which he said will come after Alabama’s U.S. Senate special election. The primary is scheduled for Aug. 15, with the general election set for Dec. 12.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey hasn’t decided if she will run for office in 2018. But more GOP candidates are jumping into the fray. Political observers believe that now is the time for the governor to do more.

"The entire two years and five months that I’ve been auditor, people have been reporting problems in government and I have been researching and addressing them," Zeigler said. "This is not new."

The blacklegged tick, or deer tick, transmit the bacteria that causes Lyme disease to humans.
(UAB News)
How to remove a tick. (Alabama Department of Public Health)

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