Mid-Session Update

Mar 26, 2013 No Comments ›› Admin

The 2013 Legislative Session is now at the halfway point. While I am pleased with what we have accomplished so far, there is still a lot of work left to do. Here are a few of the major milestones from the first half of the session, as well as a preview of what’s to come:

ATF PAYBACK

After a vote of the people on September 18, money will now be taken out of the Alabama Trust Fund to prop up the state General Fund. The constitutional amendment provided no means to repay the money that will be borrowed. However, the legislature made good on its promise to pay back the ATF by passing the People’s Trust Act. This bill was the first bill passed in the 2013 legislative session and will require the state to pay back the $437.5 million by 2026.

ALABAMA ACCOUNTABILITY ACT

This historic bill provides tax credits to families with students in consistently failing schools to attend a non-failing public or private school. It also gives flexibility to local school boards so they can tailor their programs to the needs of their students.
I was proud to support this legislation, but I will also work to make sure our successful schools are protected and able to continue bringing up our next generation of leaders.

GENERAL FUND BUDGET

Setting the state on a sound, conservative fiscal path is one of our top priorities in the Senate. General Fund Budget Chairman, Senator Arthur Orr, has done a great job this year in crafting a General Fund budget that makes sure essential services are provided while streamlining and making cuts wherever possible. The $1.75 billion General Fund budget for fiscal year 2014 has passed the Senate and will now be sent to the House for review. Of particular note is the legislative branch’s budget, which has been cut $12.9 million. If we are going to ask other state agencies and branches of government to live within their means, we have to lead by example.
SladeSq

GOVERNMENT EFFICIENCY

The effort to make state government more efficient will continue to be a priority. Two major successes to streamline government include public safety and the state IT department:

Law Enforcement: Senate Bill 108 consolidates over 20 public safety agencies down to seven agencies. This will end up saving the state an estimated $26-$30 million per year. It establishes the Alabama State Law Enforcement Agency and a Secretary of Law Enforcement to oversee state-level law enforcement functions. Breaking down these barriers between agencies will go along way toward eliminating redundancies and making our law enforcement agencies more efficient and responsive.

Information Technology: There is currently no coordination between state agencies for Information Technology (IT). The state is losing millions of dollars each year because of this lack of efficiency. Senate Bill 117 addresses these problems by creating a Secretary of Information Technology who will oversee the state’s IT network and find ways to save the state money while also coordinating all state agency IT departments.

LOOKING AHEAD

Women’s Health and Safety Act

The Women’s Health and Safety Act (HB57) passed out of the Senate Health Committee, of which I am a member, and will now be up on the Senate floor when the legislature returns from Spring Break. This bill says that if a woman chooses to have an abortion, direct physician involvement will be required and there will be mandatory standards for nursing care and post-operative follow-up visits. Because of Supreme Court rulings, it is sadly not possible to prohibit abortions all together, but this bill will make sure women are cared for in the safest pre-and-post operative environment available. I will continue my support of pro-life bills and look forward to seeing HB57 pass in the Senate (hopefully next week). Please contact your legislator to show your support for this bill.

ONESPOT

In the next few weeks of the legislative session, I will introduce a bill that will improve the purchasing and renewal of business licenses to make it less burdensome for businesses across our state. Currently Alabama has a complicated business licensing system that includes 138 different state and county business licenses that many businesses must purchase. My bill will reduce the amount of state and county business licenses that most businesses are required to purchase and create an online system where all businesses can go to apply for, purchase and renew all applicable state and local business licenses in one place—the “Business License ONESPOT.”
Coffee and Conversation

Medicaid

The Legislature will begin work on a bill to change the state Medicaid plan when we return from Spring Break. The newest plan, a result of a 14-month long study by the Alabama Medicaid Advisory Committee formed by Governor Bentley, will look at restructuring the current Medicaid organization and future funding. Senator Greg Reed will introduce the bill in the Senate and Representative Jim McClendon will introduce it in the House.

EVENTS

Coffee & Conversation

This year I began the “Coffee & Conversation” series to reach out to all areas of District 15. It has been a beneficial and productive way for me to meet with the mayor of each city as well as with constituents in an informal setting to talk about the issues that matter most. We have had successful events in Chelsea, Trussville and Leeds and we already have some great ones planned for this spring. Be sure to check my Facebook page for the next Coffee & Conversation in your city.