January 28, 2016
2016 Regular Legislative Session To Begin February 2nd
The Alabama 2016 Regular Legislative Session will begin on Tuesday, February 2nd. Both the House and Senate will convene at noon on Tuesday. Both chambers are expected to meet on Tuesday and Wednesday next week in order to prepare the bodies for legislative work the following week. We also expect a quick start to the session with 3-day weeks coming early in the session.
Governor and Legislative Leaders Give Session Forecast, House Republican Caucus Releases Agenda
On Thursday Governor Robert Bentley, Budget Chairmen Representative Steve Clouse, Senator Arthur Orr, Speaker Mike Hubbard, and Senator Phil Williams addressed a crowd at the State Capitol to provide a legislative forecast before session begins next week. Similar to last year, the General Fund Budget will face a shortfall and the Education Trust Fund is projected to have a growth in revenue. However, both the Governor and legislative leaders were clear that no new revenue measures would be a priority and that the General Fund will rely on cuts and reforms in order to fund state government services.
Also on Thursday, the House Republican Caucus released their legislative agenda “Right for Alabama.” A relatively short agenda, Republican leaders were confident that a short agenda would allow them to focus on addressing the state budgets early in the session. Their hopes are to have both budgets passed before legislative spring break which will take place the week of March 28th.
The “Right for Alabama” agenda includes (information provided by the Speaker’s Office):
Zero-Based Budgeting Reform - In order to bring a new level of scrutiny, transparency, and accountability to the appropriations process, the Alabama House Republican Caucus will begin to implement a new “zero-based” budgeting system. This revolutionary new process will require state agencies to fully account for each dollar they receive, help identify ineffective programs that are in need of elimination, and potentially save or re-direct substantial amounts of taxpayer dollars.
Pension Reform - The Alabama House Republican Caucus will continue its efforts to ensure the long-term solvency and fiscal health of the Retirement Systems of Alabama while protecting and preserving the current level of benefits earned by existing retirees and employees.
Alabama Taxpayer Advocate Act - Under current law, the role of Taxpayer Advocate must be filled by an employee within the Department of Revenue who is selected by the commissioner and reports directly to her. In order to ensure fair and equitable treatment of Alabama taxpayers, House Republicans will offer legislation requiring the Taxpayer Advocate to be appointed by the governor from a pool of candidates recommended by a committee of government officials and business professionals. The advocate’s role and duties in protecting taxpayers’ interests would be expanded significantly under this measure.
Small Business Job Creation Tax Credit - During the past five years, Alabama has transformed into one of the most business-friendly states in the nation, and the Legislature has worked to provide incentives necessary to lure thousands of new, high-paying jobs to our state. Small businesses, however, have created more than 65% of all new jobs over the past 20 years nationally. To encourage further job expansion within the state, Alabama House Republicans will propose a $1,500 income tax credit for every new, qualified employee hired by small businesses operating within the state.
Alabama’s Right To Work Constitutional Amendment - Although Alabama and many other southeastern states are firm right-to-work states, labor unions have stepped up their efforts to organize industrial facilities across the region after experiencing recent successes that include Volkswagen in Tennessee and Golden Dragon in Wilcox County. Alabama passed one of the nation’s first right-to-work laws roughly 60 years ago, but House Republicans believe it is time to enshrine that employment protection in our state constitution and will offer an amendment to be included on the November 2016 election ballot.
Protecting Public Safety from Syrian Refugee Threats - Recognizing the inherent risks that exist and lacking confidence in federal claims of thorough background checks, the Alabama House Republican Caucus will oppose any Obama administration effort to relocate masses of Syrian or other Middle Eastern refugees to our state. The possibility of even one “refugee” with a questionable background slipping through the system poses a danger to our public safety that Alabamians should not be forced to endure.
Preserving Second Amendment Constitutional Rights - The Alabama House Republican Caucus pledges to assist members of our federal delegation in overturning Barack Obama’s unconstitutional executive orders attacking our Second Amendment right to own firearms.
School Security and Student Safety Task Force - Alabama schools have been extremely fortunate to avoid a violent situation like those that have occurred in other states, but we must continue looking for ways to improve school safety and ensure we are as prepared as possible to prevent or mitigate any situation that might arise. The Alabama House Republican Caucus will create a task force comprised of key education, law enforcement, and emergency management leaders from across the state and tasked with completing a comprehensive review and assessment of state laws, regulations, and protocols relating to security and student safety in our public K-12 schools, colleges, and universities. The Legislature will consider the task force’s resulting recommendations for improvement.
Teacher Pay Raise - Recognizing their importance in preparing students for success in the 21st Century workplace, House Republicans will work to provide Alabama’s K-12 and post-secondary education personnel with a pay raise.
Wireless Infrastructure Renovation for Education (WIRED) Act - An extensive knowledge of operating computers will be required of everyone in the 21st century workforce, so today’s students must be proficient in the latest technologies. Three out of five schools in the United States currently lack the infrastructure needed to take advantage of wireless technology, and that number is believed to be even higher in Alabama. The WIRED Act proposed by House Republicans will create a framework for putting wireless broadband in all K-12 public schools by providing grants to local systems for the purchase, installation or upgrade of wireless infrastructure. Schools already possessing the necessary infrastructure may use the grants to purchase wireless devices and technology.
Unborn Infants’ Dignity of Life Act - Recent reports about outrageous acts by Planned Parenthood and its representatives have prompted public outcry regarding the organization and the cavalier practices it utilizes regarding unborn life. In order to ensure that these atrocities do not occur in Alabama, the House Republican Caucus will offer legislation banning the sale of the bodily remains of unborn infants.