By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Tuesday, April 18, 2017, Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia) addressed the Alabama Federation of Young Republicans about his priorities for the remainder of the 2017 Legislative Session.
Speaker McCutcheon said that for the rest of the session, “Our priorities are the budgets.” There are just a few weeks left in the session. The education budget is in the House. We are working on that. The State General Fund has passed this House and is in the Senate. “Every year we go into a conference committee to work on the budget.”
McCutcheon said, “The next priority is the redistricting issues which was handed to us by the courts.” We have 12 districts that have to be redrawn. The redistricting committee is already in place. They are already drawing district lines. There is a possibility of 60 plus districts affected by this, including mine. They had to shave part of mine off to help one of the districts named by the court.
Speaker McCutcheon said, “We go into campaign mode in June. We have got to get this bill out. That has to be sent to the courts. We are pretty sure that the judge will approve the plan we are submitting.
The House still has to address the prison bill. McCutcheon said that the Senate has passed the Senate prisons bill. One issue we have in the House is: “Does it do what exactly has to be done. The prisons we have are old they are dated they are not safe. We have a lot of representatives that are concerned about our indebtedness. We passed a bill in 2012 that has helped us decrease our numbers in correctional facilities. There are two differences between prisons and corrections. A prison is where mean people that do not need to be in society. Corrections includes work release. We can rehabilitate them so that they can be put back into society. We need new prisons for officer safety. We also should be looking at corrections, drug courts, and work release.” McCutcheon said that we “should not just concentrate on bricks and mortar, but concentrate on the prisoners themselves.”
McCutcheon said that in two weeks we are going to get a ruling from the court on our mental health issue and will go into mediation. I would rather fix this ourselves than wait for the federal court because we can’t afford what the court will order.
Speaker McCutcheon said, “The gas tax died in the House on Thursday. I cannot think of any member who wants to vote for a tax. The problems is that we have not done anything in the last 25 years. I have worked on this for three years. I am open to any ideas.”
McCutcheon said that President Donald J. Trump (R) has proposed a $trillion infrastructure program; but in Alabama we don’t have any money to match. Tennessee is addressing this now. Georgia and Florida have already addressed this. Last year I traveled all over the state and listened to local officials all over the state. When you have a President of Mercedes stand up and say that 2015 was a great year for us but we had a real problem moving our product up and down the highway and we will not continue to expand in Alabama until we fix I-20. We lost the Volkswagen plant partly because Chattanooga had the roads and Alabama could only promise to build the roads.
Speaker McCutcheon said, “If we are going to be competitive we have to improve our infrastructure. A no vote is always the easiest. A no vote is a safe easy vote. I am open to fees, indexing, or a transportation fee added on to car tag renewals.”
McCutcheon said of the Republicans who refused to support the gas tax, “Some of the no votes don’t have any ideas. They just want to go home and vote no and tell their voters that they voted no on taxes.”
McCutcheon said that one idea that the legislature is considering is a revenue neutral plan where the legislature increases the gas tax while decreasing the sales tax on food.