Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey was sworn in for her second full term

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) – Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey began her second full term Monday, calling the state a place where “common sense and opportunity abound” during uncertain national times.

Ivey took the oath of office on the steps of Alabama’s Capitol, which is adorned with the state’s red and white flag.

“It is the highest honor of my life to serve as your governor. I promise you today that over the next four years, I will work hard to build on our roots so we can address our longstanding challenges, drive our progress and prepare for the future,” said Ivey.

In a broad speech, the Republican governor thanked supporters, pledged a focus on education, broadband rollouts and cuts in regulation for businesses, but also nodded to GOP hot-button issues like restrictions on transgender athletes.

“When I was a young girl growing up in Camden, I could never have imagined the world we live in today. I never thought that the day we elect a governor and a United States senator, we’d also have to fight to give our girls a fair chance when they compete in sports,” Ivey said.

Ivey signed legislation in 2021 banning transgender girls from playing on K-12 girls’ sports teams, one of several Conservative governors to sign similar restrictions in recent years. Opponents argue such measures are based on discrimination and fear and violate federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in education.

Ivey also paid tribute to the people who helped with the recovery from last week’s deadly tornado outbreak that killed seven people in the state.

“The only light in all this darkness was our people. People from across our state are flocking to help their neighbors,” Ivey said.

Ivey said that “ensuring that every student in Alabama receives a quality education will be my primary focus in her second term.”

She said that by the end of her term, Alabama, which normally ranks near the bottom of the national rankings, will rank in the top 30 states for reading and math achievement.

The governor promised discussions about school choice, including changes to the state charter school law, and said the state will work with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library initiative to send a free book each month to children under 5 whose parents request it. She also announced the creation of a new teacher-focused commission that she says will deliberate on “big changes we can make to hire, retain and prepare tomorrow’s teacher.” She did not give any further details.

The 78-year-old governor, who has had political opponents in the past raising thinly veiled questions about her age and fitness, said her administration has “a full four years of work and productivity ahead of us.”

With the prospect of an open governorship in 2026, Ivey also urged other elected officials to work together instead of focusing on the next election.

“Let’s not forget that our ministry cannot be about the next election. It’s about serving the people of our state and giving them what they need and deserve from their government,” Ivey said.

Ivey is the state’s second female governor and the first Republican woman elected to the post. Her inauguration on Monday coincided with the anniversary of the inauguration of the state’s first woman governor, Gov. Lurleen Wallace, as governor on January 16, 1967. Ivey has called Wallace one of her heroes.

Ivey was lieutenant governor but automatically became governor in 2017 when the governor at the time. Robert Bentley abruptly resigned amid an impeachment inquiry. Ivey won the post in 2018 and again in 2022.

During her final term, Ivey championed a number of GOP priorities. She signed an abortion ban in 2019 that bans abortion at any stage of pregnancy, with no exceptions for pregnancies the result of rape and incest. The abortion ban came into effect after the US Supreme Court ended constitutional protections for the procedure last year.

Ivey also signed legislation removing the requirement to obtain a state license to carry a concealed handgun.

She has been criticized by Democrats for her focus on building prisons as the state faces an ongoing prison crisis with high rates of inmate versus inmate killings.

Ivey didn’t have an easy road to the GOP nomination last year when key Republican challengers criticized her push for a gas tax hike and her handling of the COVID-19 pandemic with state business closures and mask orders.

However, the governor defeated her opponents — including former Trump ambassador Lindy Blanchard and Tim James, the son of a former Alabama governor — without being forced into the runoff. Ivey easily won the November general election, defeating Democrat Yolanda Flowers and Libertarian James Blake.

Lt. gov. Will Ainsworth, Attorney General Steve Marshall, Secretary of State Wes Allen and other national elected officials were also sworn in during the dedication ceremony.

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