By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Thursday, the Alabama House Republican Caucus released its 2018 “Flag, Family, and Country” legislative agenda.
House Republicans say that it is a package of nine measures designed to provide protections for Alabama families, extend benefits to active duty soldiers and military veterans and encourage respect for the U.S. Flag during the playing of the National Anthem and other patriotic displays.
The package also includes state budgeting reforms, efforts to address the opioid crisis in Alabama and a call for Congress to speed construction of a secure wall across the U.S. – Mexican border.
“Rather than being considered as separate, stand-alone documents, the legislative agendas offered by the Alabama House Republican Caucus during the 2014 – 2018 quadrennium should be viewed as four pieces of the same puzzle – each fitting with the other and providing a full and vivid picture when completed,” House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter, R – Rainsville, said. “In previous years, we have focused upon protecting unborn life, attracting new jobs, improving public education, and fighting federal government intrusion. In 2018, our ‘Flag, Family, and Country’ agenda will focus upon other areas that are important to all conservative and patriotic Alabamians.”
Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon, R – Monrovia, said that he fully supports the measures in the “Flag, Family, and Country” agenda, and he will prioritize their passage as they move through the legislative process.
“As soon as they are ready to come to the floor, the bills in the House Republicans’ ‘Flag, Family, and Country’ agenda will be given the attention of the body,” Speaker McCutcheon said. “It is my hope that we can quickly approve the important measures included in the agenda, fulfill our constitutional duty of passing balanced budgets, and provide the citizens of Alabama with the efficient and effective government they deserve.”
The package includes two childhood trauma and domestic violence prevention bills that would increase the penalties for domestic violence in the presence of a child. The first bill would call for the death penalty or life in prison without parole for murder of a parent or guardian in the presence of a child. The second would dramatically increase the penalties for acts of domestic violence committed against a parent or guardian in the presence of a child.
The Veterans Employment Act expands the “Heroes for Hire Act” previously passed by House Republicans and provides incentives to businesses that hire honorably discharged veterans who are currently unemployed. The bill would ensure that the veterans covered by this incentive program would be hired for full-time jobs and earn at least $14 per hour. Because the program is modeled after the “pay as you go” method of awarding economic incentives, it would have no negative fiscal impact on the budgets. The previous program applied only to “recently deployed” veterans, but this package includes all currently unemployed veterans.
The Parks for Patriots Act of 2018 would provide free, year-round admission to all Alabama state parks for all active military personnel and veterans, including members of the National Guard and Reserves. Recently, the Department of Conservation commenced the Parks for Patriots initiative as an administrative pilot program at the suggestion of House Republicans, and this bill would permanently establish the program into state law.
The caucus is also proposing a resolution urging all Americans to show proper honor and respect to the U.S. Flag during the playing of the National Anthem, the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance and other displays of patriotic pride.
This Caucus is also planning a resolution urging Congress to fund and expedite the construction of a secure wall across the border between the United States and Mexico, which continues to be a cornerstone priority of President Donald Trump’s administration.
To combat the serious societal issue of opioid addiction, the Alabama House Republicans pledge to closely monitor the work of Gov. Kay Ivey’s Alabama Opioid Overdose and Addiction Council and will quickly review and consider any suggested legislation that it may put before the body.
Because Rural Alabama is the backbone of our state, House Republicans pledge to focus upon and consider bills, programs and initiatives intended to provide rural Alabamians with more economic development and quality of life resources.
The Alabama House Republicans pledge to continue supporting the efforts of the Joint Legislative Task Force on Budget Reform and will work with the Senate and the staff of the Legislative Services Agency to immediately make public an unprecedented amount of information regarding state finances.
State Rep. Connie Rowe, R – Jasper, chaired the Caucus Agenda Committee and said the panel worked hard to select bills that both reflect the conservative values most Alabamians hold and also improve the lives of citizens across the state.
“As a former police chief, I am pleased that increased penalties for felony domestic violence will be considered this session, but all of the agenda’s measures are worthy of attention.” Rowe said. “Addressing the opioid crisis, focusing on development in the rural portions of our state, providing benefits to soldiers and veterans, and the other agenda items will all have deeply positive impacts on the lives of Alabamians.”
The Agenda bills were proposed by Republican House members and were vetted by the Caucus’s Agenda Committee, which was chaired by Rowe and included State Rep. April Weaver, R – Brierfield, State Rep. Corey Harbison, R – Good Hope, State Rep. Alan Baker, R – Brewton, State Rep. Joe Lovvorn, R – Auburn, State Rep. Corley Ellis, R – Columbiana, State Rep. Dimitri Polizos, R – Montgomery, and State Rep. Steve McMillan, R – Bay Minette.
The full Caucus culled the committee’s suggestions and voted unanimously to adopt the measures included in the 2018 “Flag, Family, and Country” agenda.
The legislative agenda avoided most controversial issues. The Caucus made no mention of the state’s troubled Medicaid program, improving the state’s aged prison system, additional money for infrastructure needs, providing constitutional carry to all of Alabama’s gun-owners or improving Alabama’s schools. They also did not promise not to raise taxes or expand gaming in the state.
The 2018 regular Alabama legislative session begins on Jan. 9, 2017.