News & Updates

June 14, 2011

Legislative Session Re-cap

2011 Regular Session – Summary of Legislation

“Handshake with Alabama”

•  The Alabama Legislature has now passed each of the bills promised in the Republican “Handshake with Alabama.”
•  Many of these bills passed in last December’s Special Session on anti-corruption reform and are already law. These include measures banning money laundering between political organizations, setting strict limits on lobbyist gifts and ending the practice of “Double Dipping.”

•  The seven remaining bills we vowed to enact, and have now passed, are:

1.  A plan to crack down on illegal immigration by giving local law enforcement the authority to verify the residency status of those they detain, requiring business owners to vet new hires with the “E-verify” system and mandating that recipients of taxpayer-funded public services must be legal U. S. residents

2.  The Responsible Budgeting and Spending Act, which mandates state revenue estimates be based upon a 15-year rolling average, absorbing cyclical economic changes and enabling lawmakers to pass “proration-proof” budgets

3.  The Public Official Transparency Act, which requires public disclosure of the names of public officials or candidates or spouses of public officials or candidates who are employed by the state or who have a contract with the state

4.  An amendment to the Constitution of Alabama which, if ratified, will prohibit any person, employer, or health care provider from being compelled to participate in any health care system

5.  The Health Care Tax Incentives for Small Businesses and their Employees Act, which would allow small business employers and employees to deduct 200% of the amounts they pay in health insurance premiums from their state income tax.

6.  A plan to protect the Alabama Ethics Commission against political retaliation by ensuring that its annual appropriation is an amount equal to .1% of the total funds appropriated from the State General Fund.

7.  An amendment to the Alabama Constitution which, if ratified, would ensure Alabama remains a “Right-to-Work” state by guaranteeing votes of employee representation by secret ballot.

More conservative, common sense legislation includes:
The “Made in Alabama” Job Incentives Act – SB477 by Rep. Barry Mask and Sen. Marc Keahey. This will allow the state to use tax incentives to temporarily offset federal tariffs for qualifying companies that commit to build facilities and create jobs in Alabama. We are the first state in the nation to enact such a law, giving us a competitive advantage in recruiting international companies that will bring thousands of jobs to Alabama.

Fiscal Transparency Act -HB 25 - by Rep. Paul Demarco. This bill requires the state Finance Department to post monthly reports detailing the condition of the state’s General Fund and education budgets so the people know exactly how much money the state has every month

Outlawing Late-Term Abortions in Alabama - HB 18 - by Rep. Kerry Rich. This bill would protect unborn children in Alabama by outlawing abortions past 20 weeks into a mother’s pregnancy.

Voter Photo Identification -HB19- by Rep. Kerry Rich which would help eliminate election fraud by requiring all voters to present a form of legal identification at the polls.

State Employee Pension Reform - Rep. Barry Mask introduced a measure that repeals that state’s Deferred Retirement Option Plan but grandfathers those already enrolled.  Since its passage a decade ago, many have considered DROP, which allows some public employees to bank pension benefits in a side account while continuing to work beyond retirement age, to be a costly and controversial program in desperate need of repeal.  The Senate version of Mask’s bill (SB 72) passed both legislative chambers early in the 2011 Legislative Session and was signed into law by Governor Bentley.

Campaign Finance Transparency – SB 136 by Rep. Mike Ball and Sen. Arthur Orr. This bill will require more frequent reporting and posting of campaign finance reports, as well as requiring them to be filed electronically. This will make it easier for the public to know exactly who is funding political campaigns and make it harder to hide political contributions.

Tenure and Fair Dismissal Reform - SB 310 by Rep. Chad Fincher and Sen. Trip Pittman. This new law keeps tenure protection for teachers while giving local school systems and community colleges the authority to fire bad teachers and problem employees for justifiable causes. The bill also removes the costly and time-consuming federal arbitration for termination appeals and replaces it with a fair, common-sense appeals procedure that guarantees due process for teachers while ensuring cost savings for local schools.

Education Budget:

We passed a leaner, more efficient education budget that avoids layoffs, avoids teacher pay cuts and prevents future proration. We also restored money originally left out by Governor Bentley that allows schools to pay their operating expenses throughout the year. Because our kids can’t learn if the schools can’t pay the light bill.

Make no mistake, we made some pretty dramatic budget cuts. In fact, this Education Trust Fund budget has approximately $600 million in cuts compared to the current fiscal year.

But in these times - tough choices have to be made. They really are no different that the choices so many families across this state have been forced to make during this challenging economic time. The state simply cannot spend more than it takes in.

We will not shy away from making these tough choices because that’s what we were sent to Montgomery to do. We must set priorities and ensure that taxpayers’ money is being spent wisely on programs that work. This challenging budget situation also presents us with an opportunity to fundamentally change the way we manage and fund state government. We can be a leaner, more efficient government while still being productive and responsive.

That’s why our budget protects funding for innovative programs that are making a difference to improve Alabama’s education system. For decades Alabama had never ranked higher than 48th or 49th among other states in education. Today, Alabama ranks 25th nationally in overall education quality. That’s a remarkable improvement, and it didn’t happen all by itself. We were able to do it by prioritizing programs that get results, including the Alabama Reading Initiative, the Alabama Math, Science and Technology Initiative, ACCESS Distance Learning and First Class Pre-K. These programs are making a real difference by offering children educational opportunities our state has never been able to offer before.

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