By Hannah Lester

The Opelika Chamber of Commerce connected business owners with their Alabama Representatives last week.

Alabama State House Representative Joe Lovvorn, Alabama State House Representative Jeremy Gray and Alabama State House Representative Debbie Wood all attended a Legislation Reception hosted by the Opelika Chamber of Commerce at Red Clay Brewery.

The event, sponsored by Arbor Springs Health and Rehab Center and Lee Russell Council of Governments, was meant to give residents and business owners in Opelika a chance to meet their representatives, chat and ask questions.

Each representative was given a few minutes to speak formally about their current projects and then chat one-on-one to answer questions.

Jeremy Gray

Gray, District 83, told the audience, who were seated or standing in the outdoor patio space behind Red Clay Brewery, that he has been working lately on ensuring seniors in the community are taken care of.

The representative was also recently nominated for the Alabama Innovation Commission.

“One thing we’re trying to do is, we’re just trying to get information from each area, whether you think we need incubators, accelerated programs, apprenticeships or mentors or we need champion big businesses, or whatever you may need, let me know,” Gray said.

Other recent priorities Gray has focused on have been unemployment or working with citizens on a regular basis, he said.

Joe Lovvorn

Lovvorn, District 79, said he can relate to the business owners and understand their issues.

“One thing in 2020 that I hated to have to do but was honored to be a part of was how to reopen and organize our businesses in Alabama when we can,” he said. “Because the first thing we said to ourselves was every business is essential to somebody.”

The representative said they are doing what they can to open businesses, but understood the reality of the coronavirus, having had it, having seen it as a politician, parent, business owner and as a first responder, he said.

Debbie Wood

Wood, District 38, said that she feels that she and other representatives are more accessible now than ever before due to the coronavirus.

“The governor sent us home, and when the governor sent us home, we had time to actually spend with people within our district who need us,” she said.

One of Wood’s priorities has been helping residents deal with the unemployment process due to the virus.

“I have a phone message today from a gentleman that had not received his unemployment for seven weeks,” she said. “And his message to me was: ‘I haven’t received unemployment and I have no food.’ So when you get messages like that and you’re in Montgomery, a lot of times, there’s not a whole lot you can do. But when you’re here, and you’re within your district there’s a whole lot of things you can do.”

She, like Lovvorn, said she’s been able to work with businesses during this tough time.

One of Wood’s major projects has been ‘Exton’s Law,’ which will allow individuals to be placed on the donor list when they might not have been able to before.

Secondly, and more recently, she asked for a bill that will not allow businesses to keep a patron’s money if they do not have change due to the change shortage.

Randy Price

State Senator Randy Price, District 13, was supposed to attend the event but was warned by his doctor not to attend large gatherings as he recovers from the coronavirus.

He did provide a letter that Opelika Chamber President Ali Rauch read.

“It is a privilege to serve as a senator to District 13 which includes a portion of Opelika, as well as four other counties,” Price said in his letter. “As you know the 2020 legislative session was showing great promise until it was abruptly shortened due to COVID-19 quarantine. So let’s address the 2021 session.”

His letter said that the session will look at the Rebuild Alabama Plan, such as the expansion of Exit 62.

“Lee County is growing and I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House and Senate to serve you,” Price said.