By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
In what was a major victory for the people of Alabama, the House passed the remaining keys to the GOP promised jobs package on Thursday.
Housemembers passed a constitutional amendment that allows voters to give the Governor and the Alabama Development Office the authority to offer incentives like those used on the Mercedes project to recruit new industry to Alabama and prevent existing industry from leaving the state.
The bills HB159 and HB160 were part of the “Jobs Package,” there were shaped by House Republicans and the Governor’s office.
Rep. Barry Mask, (R-Wetumpka) who is an recognizes expert in economic development shepherded the bills through the process.
“I think it is a step in the right direction to brings jobs to Alabama and get Alabama to regain its competitive advantage in keeping and recruiting these projects,” said Mask. “I was pleased to work with colleagues from both parties to make this bill better so that voters can be confident in the plan we put before them.”
The bill was a political fight from the beginning as AEA chief Henry Mabry had decided to make stopping the “Jobs Package” his first battle against the Republican majority this session.
For most of the three-day battle, the AEA union controlled the talking points on the House floor.
“In the past, we have never really allowed economic development to get too political,” said, Mask. “I was sorry to see that AEA tried to make it so this time.”
In the end, the union did not have the votes to overcome the jobs bills.
Veteran lawmaker, Dr. Jim McClendon (R-Springville). said he believes the passage of HB159 was a defining moment for this legislature, for the Governor and for the people of Alabama.
“This vote clearly shows who is in charge of Alabama’s lawmaking process. The question was, ‘Is this a union group with a lobbyist leader that is going to decide how Alabama is run or is it the elected officials?’” said McClendon. “This has obviously shown that the elected officials are in charge of this state and the union group needs to get their house in order and come help us put Alabama back to work.”
Despite the scare tactics employed to defeat the bill by the Alabama Education Association and the Alabama Democratic Party, the constitutional amendment and its corresponding enabling bill both passed with strong bi-partisan support. House Minority Leader Rep. Craig Ford (D-Gadsden) voted in favor of both bills, perhaps setting a standard for things to come.
“It’s hard to believe anyone would be against bi-partisan efforts to boost job growth,” Speaker Hubbard said. “When the economy grows, our education budget grows, and we have more funds to put toward schools. More jobs and more money for education means everybody wins. Most importantly, the people win over the special interests.”
The bill now goes to the Senate where where State Senator Phil Williams (R-Gadsden) will do the heavy lifting of making sure the bill passes.