February 26, 2016
The Alabama Legislature met for three legislative days in Montgomery this week. The House will reconvene on Tuesday March 1st at 2:00pm and the Senate will reconvene the same day at 2:00pm.
House Passes Education Bills Dealing With Wireless And Student Data
This week the House of Representatives took a major step towards providing Alabama schools with the infrastructure and funding necessary to make broadband and wireless internet a reality in all Alabama schools. HB41 by Representative Donnie Chesteen provides the standards by which Alabama schools must outfit their buildings with broadband and wireless infrastructure across the state. The bill passed the House on Tuesday and also was approved by the Senate Committee on Finance and Taxation Education. Along with that bill was HB227 by Representative Bill Poole which would provide the funding necessary to implement the plan laid out in Representative Chesteen’s bill. Should both these bills pass the Senate and are signed by the Governor, then Alabama will be on its way to being the first state in the nation to completely provide broadband and wireless infrastructure for every school in the state.
On Thursday, the House passed HB125 by Representative Terri Collins that creates the Alabama Longitudinal Data System on a 70-28 vote. This bill would link performance records from early learning through entry into the workforce to show how students’ progress through our education and workforce system over time. By aggregating the information, Alabama will have a better, more in-depth look at programs and outcomes which could lead to advancements in student achievement and a closing of the skills gap. The workforce development community, from educators to businesses, has praised this legislation because of the opportunity it provides to improve Alabama’s economic future.
Senate Passes Uniform Minimum Wage Act and General Fund Budget
The Alabama Senate on Thursday approved HB174, the Alabama Uniform Minimum Wage and Right to Work Act sponsored by Representative David Faulkner. The bill, which has now been signed by Governor Robert Bentley into law, prevents cities and municipalities from setting their own minimum wages, and also imposes limits on the wages and benefits they can negotiate with employers looking to locate in their areas. Democrats sharply criticized the legislation as interference in city affairs and an attempt to end discussion about proper compensation in Alabama.
The Senate also spent several hours debating the General Fund Budget, SB125 sponsored by Senator Trip Pittman. The Senate approved the budget 24-10 with about $104 million less than Gov. Robert Bentley’s $1.9 billion proposal from earlier this month. State agencies would generally receive about the same amount of money in the budget.