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Republican dissent may kill the governor’s executive amendments on HB658

By Beth Clayton
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY–Last week, Governor Bentley announced his executive amendments to HB658, which will delay the scholarship program and tax credits in the Alabama Accountability Act until the 2015-2016 school year.

Since the governor’s announcements on Wednesday, Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) said that he would not bring the bill up for a vote on Monday.

Friday, Senator Paul Sanford (R-Huntsville) wrote a letter to Bentley letting him know that he will not support the executive amendment to delay implementation.

“The scholarship provision is extremely important to this opportunity and I personally cannot accept waiting another two years to see if these children might be offered a better education,” Sanford wrote.

“I will not sit by and passively allow or condone more children being subjected to a less than stellar education when the Accountability Act offers these same children a path to a better education where one previously did not exist,” Sanford wrote in his letter to Bentley.

The governor has said that his priority is to help repay the Rainy Day Account in the Education Trust Fund. Delaying implementation allows failing schools time to improve and gives the State time to repay its constitutional obligations.

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Since the legislature ignored the governor’s recommendation to repay $100 million of this $423 million debt, Bentley believes his amendments are necessary to ensure the debt is able to be repaid.

In Bentley’s letter to the legislature on Friday, he claimed that he has received wide support for his amendments from citizens across the state.

Sanford said that people in his district have “thanked [him] weekly for passing the Accountability Act.”

The governor has said that he would continue to work with legislative leadership to find a solution to the apparent stalemate on passing this legislation.

The House and Senate Democrats have spoken on behalf of repealing the Accountability Act all together, while the Speaker’s office has not taken a formal position on the bill.

If Marsh follows through with his plan and refuses to allow the bill to come to a vote, it is extremely unlikely that the House will bring the bill up for consideration either. If the governor is not able to reach an agreement with the Republican leadership, HB658 will be dead. However, the Accountability Act passed on February 28, will remain in place without any proposed changes.

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