By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Thursday, April 22, the Pay Raise bill and ETF Budget both passed out of Conference Committee and were approved by both Houses of the Alabama Legislature.
State Representative Mack Butler (R-Rainbow City) said in a statement, “A very busy day today in Montgomery! We non concurred with the Senate on the education budget and pay raise bills. Next they went to conference committee and then came back with an agreement to which we concurred.”
State Representative Christopher John England (D-Tuscaloosa) said, “The house has adjourned until 1 PM Tuesday April 26th. Today the House passed the largest Education Trust Fund budget since the great recession. It now goes to the Governor’s desk for his signature.”
State Senator Bill Holtzclaw (R-Madison) said in a statement that the legislature has been told the Gov. Bentley will sign the budget and pay raise bill.
Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) said in a statement to twitter, “Alabama’s commitment to education is strong, and with this pay raise, State leaders are sending a clear message of support.” “In my State of the State I prioritized a pay raise for teachers & support staff. I commend the Legislature for passing this legislation.”
State Representative Tim Wadsworth (R-Arley) said in a statement that HB121, the Education Employees Pay Raise Senate version had a retiree 13th paycheck. That was eliminated from the House Senate Compromise bill. The Senate version had principals and assistant principals receiving the 4 percent pay raise even if they make $75,000 or more. The compromise bill that passed Thursday included that provision. The House version had just a 2 percent raise for principals and assistant principals if they are paid more than $75,000.
Wadsworth said that the Senate version added an amendment (by Sen. Del Marsh) that affected educators that start and obtain an advanced degree after 1/1/17 that they would not receive pay grade increase if they taught in an area that is not in the field that they obtained the degree in. If advanced degree was in critical need area determined by the board of education they would receive increase even if they are not teaching in that field. Further any advanced degree in administration will still receive advanced degree pay. The amendment limiting pay for some future advance degrees stayed in the final compromise.
While teachers, principals, and other education employees all got raises the education retirees were not so lucky.
Alabama Education Retirees Association Executive Director Janice J. Charlesworth said in a statement to the retirees, “It has been a long four months, prior to the start of the 2016 Session, that AERA has been working on your behalf; first for a COLA then followed by advocating for the 13th/bonus check. AERA’s efforts included meetings with key Supermajority Leaders in the House and Senate. There was real support in the Senate with committed senators working on your behalf, and we especially want to acknowledge the work of Senators Gerald Dial and Tom Whatley.”
Charlesworth said that the 13th/bonus check for retirees was included as a provisional expenditure by the Senate. The House did not have that measure and when the budget and pay raise bill went to conference committee that was defeated in efforts led by Representative Bill Poole (R-Tuscaloosa and chair of the House Ways & Means Education Committee). Poole cited the Rolling Reserve Law which he claims does not allow such conditionals to be adopted. There will no bonus check for the retirees in 2016-2017.
Charlesworth said, “So we have lost the battle this year for the bonus check but the war is not over. We have even more support from the leadership in the House and Senate for a bonus check next year as a priority if funding is available. We did make progress and moved the bill into committee meetings, consideration on the floor in the House and conditional action in the Senate that just two years ago would not have been considered.”