Saturday, the Mid-Alabama Republican Club received a briefing by legislators on the 2019 legislative session in Vestavia Hills.
State Senator James t. “Jabo” Waggoner, R-Vestavia, said, “Thursday, was the ninth legislative day out of thirty. Right around seven hundred bills have been introduced. The good news is that the majority of those bills will never become law and that is a good thing.”
Waggoner said that the House passed a general fund budget of over $two billion. Of that, $700 million goes to Medicaid and over $400 million to corrections. Those two programs get over half of the general fund. There are seventy other departments that are funded by less than half of the general fund.
“The education budget has not moved yet,” Waggoner said. “It is right at $7.1 billion.”
“There is a little controversy about the increase that the University of Alabama got,” Waggoner said. In the Governor’s budget “Alabama got a seven percent; while Auburn got a five percent increase and UAB about 5 percent. Athens State got an 11 percent increase in the governor’s budget. We are going to work on that in the Senate.”
State Senator Dan Roberts, R-Mountain Brook, said that the Senate is working on the ethics reform bill over the next two weeks.
“Ethics affects over a million people in the state and that gets lost,” Roberts sid. “It is not just the 140 in the legislature. There are some important issues here.”
MARC President state Representative Paul DeMarco said, “Republicans and the public want to see it defeated. Republicans were elected in 2010 and passed the toughest ethics law in the country.”
State Representative David Wheeler, R-Vestavia Hills, said that the House has passed the economic developer safe harbor bill. This is important because the previous bill expired on April 1. It will be on the Senate floor next week.
State Representative Matt Fridy, R-Montevallo, said that the prisons in Alabama have been “A perennial problem.” We have 42 days to respond to the Justice Department report.
“We have to modernize our (prison) facilities,” Rep. Fridy said. “We are going to have to do some construction to build some new facilities.”
“If we don’t take care of it the Department of Justice will come in and tell us how to handle it and they don’t understand our budget,” Fridy said.
Jefferson County Commissioner Joe Knight (R) said, “There is an important vote coming up on Cooper Green. I was elected to get us out of the healthcare business.”
Jefferson County Commissioner Steve Ammons (R) said that on May 15, Police Memorial Day, Vestavia Hills will unveil a monument at Vestavia City Hall honoring those that gave their lives as well as those who continue to serve.
Jefferson County Commission President Jimmy Stephens (R) praised Birmingham City Council President Valerie Abbot and “The cooperation that we have had with the new council, which is going to lead to great results for both Birmingham and Jefferson County. We are stronger when we work together.”
Jefferson County Republican Party Chairman Butch Zaragoza said that legislators are dropping three bills this week and are finalizing two other bills dealing with the courts. “We are working on how to make our courts better.”
“We have a lot of work to do and it is going to take everyone in the room if we are going to make a positive change in Jefferson County,” Zaragoza said.
Zaragoza said that state legislators are sent by voters to Montgomery to vote; but, “A lot of our representatives are being chastised for doing that, by their own party. It is time to change that.”
Zaragoza is likely referring to reports that the Republican leadership in the House in Montgomery are punishing conservative Republicans who voted against the leadership’s fuel tax increase.
DeMarco said, “Three members of Congress dishonored the memory of 9-11 last week.” Even though it is not the right time of year, lets have a moment of silence honoring the memory of the heroes on 9-11.
MARC meets on the second Saturday of every month at the Vestavia Public Library.