By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—Historic, unprecedented, a great new day for the children of Alabama are all words used to describe the Alabama Accountability Act of 2013.
Today, Gov. Robert Bentley will, in so many words, say, “Not so fast.”
It has been reported that the Governor will hold a press conference to announce an Executive amendment to the Accountability Act before noon today.
Word around the Capitol is that the governor will ask that the tax credit portion of the law be held in abeyance for two years. It is believed that this is to give state education superintendent Dr. Tommy Bice time to study all the details of implementing the massive new program.
Bentley, it is believed will make the case that given a two-year window, Bice and his colleagues will also have an opportunity to reduce the number of failing schools around the state.
Bentley will address the fact that there are unanswered questions as to who will be eligible and the total cost to the program.
It is being said that the governor will sight the state’s needs to payback—the almost half-a-billion dollars—it borrowed from the gas and oil trust fund as another reason to delay the tax credits.
He may also address the fact that the education trust fund is still anemic in covering existing obligations.
Pragmatically, it appears that Bentley wants to keep the flexibility sections of the bill —that were favored by Bice and the state’s school superintendents and put aside the rest for now.
Perhaps most profoundly, the Governor will repeat the fact that he never intended for the Accountability Act to “support private education” as reported by Mary Sell, of “The Decatur Daily.“
President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) and Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn), have expressed opposition to all but “technical changes.” This could potentially, set-up a battle of time and wills on the last day of the 2013 legislative session.
As of late Monday night it appeared that the votes were lining up for the governor in the senate. So, it will be the house where the battle could be won or lost. However, Marsh could not choose to take the amendment out of the “basket,” thus reverting back to the original bill. This is a likely scenario in the House where there is little support for what is called “the Mountain Brook” exception.
On February 28, the Accountability Act swticharoo was executed by Marsh and the republican supermajority. Since then, contention and open hostility have been the hallmark of the 2013 Session.
The Democrats, feeling betrayed by Marsh and company, have used what little power they have to slow the legislative process down to a crawl.
Cooperation has been almost non-existent between the two parties since that day. Perhaps, nowhere, has the antagonism be more furious than between the GOP leadership and the Alabama Education Association.
The AEA has used radio advertising to target legislators who voted for the Accountability Act while the Republicans have sought revenge on the AEA and its chief Dr. Henry Mabry.
Marsh, recently has sought to change portions of the Accountability Act. This has also cause turmoil among legislators, including some Republicans who have had second thoughts about the law.
There is no guarantee as to exactly what the governor will do at today’s press conference but it should come as no surprise that Bentley sees a reason to change.