By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
SPRINGVILLE–On Thursday, ‘The Alabama Political Reporter’ talked with state Representative Jim McClendon (R) from Springville about his opinion of the historic 2013 session of the Alabama Legislature.
Rep. McClendon said that the biggest success of the session was the passage of comprehensive Medicaid reform. McClendon said that reforming Medicaid has the potential of saving the state and the taxpayers a lot of money. Not only will that insure the state can continue to fund Medicaid; but the savings will also help the state better fund the prisons, the courts, and other state agencies, and it may even save some state agencies, while increasing the quality of coverage to Alabama’s Medicaid beneficiaries. Rep. McClendon said, “Controlling Medicaid’s ever increasing financial demand on Alabama’s General Fund will help with funding of many other state agencies.”
Also on Rep. McClendon’s top list, was the passage of an education trust fund budget that included a teacher pay raise plus the state will assume cost of liability insurance. Alabama’s teachers and education employees have had gross pay which has been flat since 2008 while their take home pay has actually dropped as teachers are having to pay more towards their retirement benefits. Previously teachers had been forced to join a union to get liability insurance coverage or pay for expensive coverage out of their own pockets. The state provided liability insurance will allow teachers and education workers to take home even more money by dropping their union dues and/or insurance premiums.
Rep. McClendon said that he thought that repayment of the Alabama Trust Fund was a bright moment of the session. Many legislators had promised the voters that they would repay the trust fund if voters approved the controversial $437 million trust fund raid in September. As promised, this was the first bill passed by the legislature.
Next on McClendon’s list was passage of the Women’s Health and Safety Act. The Women’s Health and Safety Act (HB 57) sponsored by Mary Sue McClurkin (R) from Indian Springs holds abortion clinics to the same standard as other outpatient surgery clinics. One of the issues that HB 57 addresses is that out of state abortion doctors often perform the procedures then leave, so there is no doctor on the premises in case of complications. HB 57 requires that abortionists have to be present to deal with complications and to have hospital admitting privileges here in Alabama. Rep. McClendon said, “It only makes sense for all surgical clinics to be in compliance with requirements that help insure the safety of these women.”
Next on Rep. McClendon’s list is the Repeal of the 2012 property tax law that stripped many poor disabled people in Alabama of their property tax exemptions. Rep. McClendon said, “This new legislation repealed an act recently put forth that put new taxes on the disabled. Repealing this inadvertent burden was simply the right thing to do.”
McClendon next listed passage of the 21st Century Workforce Act. The 21st century workforce act provides funding for upgrades and improvements in career and technical education facilities so that graduating students will be ready for the 21st century job market. Rep. McClendon said, “This is a prime example of job creation efforts by the lawmakers and the governor. Preparing our students to obtain good paying jobs will be good for everyone in the state.”
McClendon mentioned the passage of better controlled substances tracking. Alabama is the leading state in prescription drug abuse. Many people in the state obtain prescription drugs, particularly pain killers, with the sole intent to sell on the black market to people for recreational use. Rep. McClendon sponsored House Bill 150. The state has had a database tracking controlled substances in place since 2006. HB 150 allows physicians and up to two of their designated employees to access that Prescription Drug Monitoring Program database maintained by the Alabama Department of Public Health. HB 150 allows the Alabama Medicaid Agency to be given access, as well. Prescribers of controlled substances in Alabama are required to report the dispensing of those drugs to the database and access to the system would allow doctors to track past prescriptions given to their patients. The database is designed to look for and identify drug abusers. Rep. McClendon said, “Cartels have moved into Alabama because of lax laws compared with surrounding states and this legislation will help curtail the flow of narcotics for street distribution.”
Rep. McClendon said, “Finally, legislation dealing with firearm possession cleared up a long standing existing law that created confusion in our rights to bear arms. Among other things, the new law will insure that every county will have the same rules. If a citizen is denied a pistol permit, a clear cut reason for the denial must be provided, and an appeal mechanism is now in place. A permit may be issued for up to 5 years if desired.”
“Also of importance to families with school age children was the law that finally addressed failing public schools. Although the method of passage proved quite controversial, no one can argue the benefit of parental choices when a child is zoned for a notoriously bad school. Until the enactment of this bill, and the subsequent bill that fined tuned it, poor parents and children were without options. This will allow to transfer to a school that provides a higher quality of education and preparedness for entering the workforce. Until this legislation passed, no one effectively addressed the problem. The facts are astounding; 13% of our schools produce 60% of the dropouts, and a dropout is 8 times more likely to end up in prison. It is about time the problem of poor schools is addressed, and these two bills are a strong, though belated start,” Rep. McClendon concluded.