Late Friday night, the Alabama Legislature approved an $11.6 billion education budget which no longer includes an unexpected $1 million for Troy University's Johnson Center for Political Economy. Instead, it awarded $1 million to a "Center for Civics Education and Leadership," which potentially does not exist.

Earlier this month, the Alabama Senate approved a $1 million appropriation for the Johnson Center in its Education Trust Fund budget, but the center's executive director, Allen Mendenhall, told 1819 News he only found out about this when a reporter showed him the bill.

The appropriation was explicitly marked for the Johnson Center's Free Enterprise Scholars program, designed to train business leaders not beholden to progressive political ideology.

The unexpected appropriation came shortly after Mendenhall spoke to the Alabama Senate Republican Caucus about the threat of environmental, social governance (ESG) earlier this month. Before Mendenhall addressed the room, the Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development Committee delayed a hearing for State Sen. Dan Roberts' (R-Mountain Brook) anti-ESG bill.

Sources informed 1819 News that state lawmakers and ESG opponents received harsh backlash from Alabama's big business lobbyists, such as Business Council of Alabama manager of Government Affairs William Newman and Regions Financial's head of government affairs and economic development Jason Isbell.

Nevertheless, the Alabama Senate passed the bill 27-8, and it received a favorable report from the House Financial Services Committee on Wednesday. 

1819 News reached out to State Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur), chair of the Senate Education Budget Committee, to ask for an explanation for suddenly appropriating money to the Johnson Center. Orr did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

After discovering the appropriation was no longer in the final bill and was replaced by an equivalent appropriation for the "Center for Civics Education and Leadership" on Tuesday, 1819 News reached out to Orr again and still did not receive a response.

A strict Google search for "Center for Civics Education and Leadership at Troy University" yields no results. 

1819 News also reached out to Troy University's senior director of communications Matt Clower to obtain more details about whether or not the center currently exists and, if it does, how it will use the money. Clower did not respond.

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