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House Republicans Release 2016 Legislative Agenda

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

On Thursday, January 28, House leaders held a press conference to announce their 2016 legislative agenda for the regular session that begins on Tuesday, February 2.

The Alabama House Republican Caucus said in a statement, “The 2016 ‘Right for Alabama’ agenda focuses on important issues like job creation, protecting public school students from harm, and demanding the dignity that unborn life deserves. This agenda continues Alabama’s on-going fight against wrong-headed federal policies that would erode our constitutionally protected gun rights and force the state to accept thousands of potentially dangerous and unchecked Syrian refugees. Read more about our legislative priorities.”

Alabama Republican Party Chairman Terry Lathan said in a statement, “This year’s Alabama House Republican agenda provides a strong foundation for conservative principles. It will include legislation for: teacher pay raises, school security, technology renovation in schools, zero-based budgeting reform, pension reform, protecting the dignity of unborn life, taxpayer protection, job creation, a right-to-work constitutional amendment, preserving Second Amendment rights and protection from Syrian Refugee threats.”

The Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives, Rep. Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) said, “Our ‘Right for Alabama’ agenda focuses on important issues like job creation, protecting public school students from harm, demanding the dignity that unborn life deserves, and other vital initiatives.”

Rep. Donnie Chesteen (R-Geneva) chaired the Caucus platform committee, which solicited Republican lawmakers to submit suggested bills and recommended the ones that should be included in the agenda.  The full Caucus membership ratified the recommendations at a recent meeting.

Chesteen said, “I believe the platform committee crafted a document that truly reflects the needs, issues, and concerns that matter most to our fellow Alabamians.”   “It is a broad-based agenda that demands fiscal accountability from state government through zero-based budgeting, creates jobs through small business tax credits, and brings 21st century technology into every public school classroom.”

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House Majority Leader Rep. Mickey Hammon (R-Decatur) said the agenda bills will be given first priority once the session convenes.   “All of these agenda bills have been unanimously endorsed and supported by our House Republican Caucus members, and they will be given our full attention early in the session.” 

House Minority Leader Craig Ford (D-Gadsden) was less optimistic.                                      

Rep. Ford said, “The Republicans’ “Right for Alabama” legislative agenda is flat-out wrong for Alabama. I’m all for business tax credits if we can afford them. But how can they justify give businesses $1,500 tax credits for each new hire right after they just raised people’s taxes by $86 million. Why raise taxes on medication and people in nursing homes if they can afford to give businesses these tax credits?” 

Minority Leader Ford continued, “They want to give teachers a pay raise, but they can’t tell us how much? And the raise they are proposing leaves out retirees entirely! Do the Republicans not think those educators deserve a raise, too? Retirees are on a fixed income, and they’ve received the same pay cuts other educators have. We have to include them in a pay raise.  The Republicans propose a “framework” for wireless broadband in our schools, but no money to actually make it happen. What good is a framework if there’s no money to make it a reality?”

ALGOP Chairman Terry Lathan added, “With the Republican legislators united to focus on these issues, we can continue to look ahead to a productive year in Alabama. We are proud of their conservative stand and will support them as they work to improve life for our citizens.  We look forward to hearing from Governor Robert Bentley on Tuesday, February 2nd as he shares his vision in the State of the State address.” 

The GOP House Caucus is calling for:

“Zero-Based Budgeting Reform – In order to bring a new level of scrutiny, transparency, and accountability to the appropriations process, the Alabama House Republican Caucus will begin to implement a new “zero-based” budgeting system. This revolutionary new process will require state agencies to fully account for each dollar they receive, help identify ineffective programs that are in need of elimination, and potentially save or re-direct substantial amounts of taxpayer dollars.”

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“Pension Reform – The Alabama House Republican Caucus will continue its efforts to ensure the long-term solvency and fiscal health of the Retirement Systems of Alabama while protecting and preserving the current level of benefits earned by existing retirees and employees.”

“Alabama Taxpayer Advocate Act – Under current law, the role of Taxpayer Advocate must be filled by an employee within the Department of Revenue who is selected by the commissioner and reports directly to her. In order to ensure fair and equitable treatment of Alabama taxpayers, House Republicans will offer legislation requiring the Taxpayer Advocate to be appointed by the governor from a pool of candidates recommended by a committee of government officials and business professionals. The advocate’s role and duties in protecting taxpayers’ interests would be expanded significantly under this measure.” 

“Small Business Job Creation Tax Credit – During the past five years, Alabama has transformed into one of the most business-friendly states in the nation, and the Legislature has worked to provide incentives necessary to lure thousands of new, high-paying jobs to our state. Small businesses, however, have created more than 65 percent of all new jobs over the past 20 years nationally. To encourage further job expansion within the state, Alabama House Republicans will propose a $1,500 income tax credit for every new, qualified employee hired by small businesses operating within the state.” 

“Alabama’s Right To Work Constitutional Amendment – Although Alabama and many other southeastern states are firm right-to-work states, labor unions have stepped up their efforts to organize industrial facilities across the region after experiencing recent successes that include Volkswagen in Tennessee and Golden Dragon in Wilcox County. Alabama passed one of the nation’s first right-to-work laws roughly 60 years ago, but House Republicans believe it is time to enshrine that employment protection in our state constitution and will offer an amendment to be included on the November 2016 election ballot.”

“Protecting Public Safety from Syrian Refugee Threats – Recognizing the inherent risks that exist and lacking confidence in federal claims of thorough background checks, the Alabama House Republican Caucus will oppose any Obama administration effort to relocate masses of Syrian or other Middle Eastern refugees to our state. The possibility of even one “refugee” with a questionable background slipping through the system poses a danger to our public safety that Alabamians should not be forced to endure.”

“Preserving Second Amendment Constitutional Rights – The Alabama House Republican Caucus pledges to assist members of our federal delegation in overturning Barack Obama’s unconstitutional executive orders attacking our Second Amendment right to own firearms.”

“School Security and Student Safety Task Force – Alabama schools have been extremely fortunate to avoid a violent situation like those that have occurred in other states, but we must continue looking for ways to improve school safety and ensure we are as prepared as possible to prevent or mitigate any situation that might arise. The Alabama House Republican Caucus will create a task force comprised of key education, law enforcement, and emergency management leaders from across the state and tasked with completing a comprehensive review and assessment of state laws, regulations, and protocols relating to security and student safety in our public K-12 schools, colleges, and universities. The Legislature will consider the task force’s resulting recommendations for improvement.”

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“Teacher Pay Raise – Recognizing their importance in preparing students for success in the 21st Century workplace, House Republicans will work to provide Alabama’s K-12 and post-secondary education personnel with a pay raise.”

“Wireless Infrastructure Renovation for Education (WIRED) Act – An extensive knowledge of operating computers will be required of everyone in the 21st century workforce, so today’s students must be proficient in the latest technologies. Three out of five schools in the United States currently lack the infrastructure needed to take advantage of wireless technology, and that number is believed to be even higher in Alabama. The WIRED Act proposed by House Republicans will create a framework for putting wireless broadband in all K-12 public schools by providing grants to local systems for the purchase, installation or upgrade of wireless infrastructure. Schools already possessing the necessary infrastructure may use the grants to purchase wireless devices and technology.”

“Unborn Infants’ Dignity of Life Act – Recent reports about outrageous acts by Planned Parenthood and its representatives have prompted public outcry regarding the organization and the cavalier practices it utilizes regarding unborn life. In order to ensure that these atrocities do not occur in Alabama, the House Republican Caucus will offer legislation banning the sale of the bodily remains of unborn infants.”

Rep. Ford said, “When it comes to the Republicans’ budgeting reforms, all they are offering is smoke and mirrors. Government agencies are already making budget request based on what they absolutely have to have to do their jobs, and every dime they spend is already a matter of public record. The Republicans even admit they don’t know if their proposal will save any money at all!  The rest of their agenda is unconstitutional nonsense challenging the federal government, which they have absolutely no control over. Are they going to stop Obama on guns and refugees like they stopped him on gay marriage? How much longer are they going to continue wasting taxpayer dollars on unconstitutional legislation? How much taxpayer money are they going to waste fighting President Obama when he’s not even going to be in the White House a year from now?  This agenda is very vanilla. It’s big on talk and short on substance. There’s just no meat on that bone.”

Rep. Hammon said, “Our agenda is rooted firmly in conservative policies and philosophy, and while these bills may be wrong for the liberals who will oppose them, Republicans believe deeply that they are ‘Right for Alabama.”

Speaker Hubbard said, “It also continues Alabama’s on-going fight against wrong-headed federal policies that would erode our constitutionally protected gun rights and force the state to accept thousands of potentially dangerous and unchecked Syrian refugees.”

 

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Written By

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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