The Alabama Legislature met for two legislative days in Montgomery this week. The House will reconvene on Tuesday March 8th at 1:00pm and the Senate will reconvene the same day at 2:00pm.
House Committee Passes Education Budget With Teacher Pay Raise
This week the Alabama House Ways & Means Education Committee held public hearings and votes on two major bills regarding education. HB117, the Education Trust Fund and HB121 were passed and authorize $6.3 billion for education spending for Fiscal Year 2017. The budget provides a four percent raise for K-12 education employees making $75,000 a year or less. Teachers making over that amount would get a two percent raise. Employees of the two-year college system would all get a four percent raise. The proposal also includes funding to hire 475 new teachers in grades seven through 12. The state lost about 3,000 public school teachers between 2008 and 2015, falling from 49,364 to 46,480. It also provides an additional $29.3 million for Other Current Expenses (OCE), money given to districts usually spent on daily needs.
The House Ways & Means General Fund Committee this week heard HB313 by Representative Steve Clouse which proposes an $800 million bond issue to replace all but two of the existing prisons with four new facilities in the State of Alabama. The administration says the plan would allow Corrections to take additional steps to address the overcrowding crisis in Alabama’s prisons. The state’s facilities were at 182 percent capacity in November. Overcrowding, combined with understaffing has played a significant role in chronic violence in the system. The bill was not voted on this week, and many concerns were raised about the current plan the bill proposes. but is a priority of Governor Robert Bentley’s Office.
Senate Passes Major Broadband And Wireless Initiatives For Schools
The Alabama Senate this week gave approval to HB41, The Alabama Ahead Act by Representative Donnie Chesteen, and HB227 by Representative Bill Poole, which lay out the standards for broadband and wireless infrastructure and also would fund the expansion of broadband and wireless in Alabama schools. While the bills will be going back to the House for concurrence since an amendment was added on in the Senate, these bills are a milestone in education progress in the state and in the country. If Alabama succeeds in authorizing and funding broadband and wireless in all state schools, then Alabama will be one of the first states in the country to do so.
Super Tuesday In Alabama
Alabama held its Republican and Democratic primaries on Tuesday, March 1, also known as Super Tuesday. By and large, incumbents across the state saw sweeping victories, while Republican candidate Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton won the presidential primaries. Alabamians also approved Amendment 1 on the ballot which would restructure the retirement plans for future judges, district attorneys and circuit clerks. The plan is estimated to save the state $130 million over the next 30 years. For a full list of primary race results in Alabama, visit this link.