On Thursday, Alabama House Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter, R-Rainsville, spoke during a Mobile Chamber of Commerce event and offered a legislative update and a preview for the upcoming session in 2024.
Ledbetter spoke at the Mobile Chamber of Commerce’s “Forum Alabama” Program. Ledbetter gave an update on issues the legislator worked on during the 2023 Legislative Session. The speaker also offered insight on several issues the House is looking at acting on when members return in about three months, including workforce participation and gambling.
Ledbetter highlighted key bills passed during the 2023 legislative session including grocery tax cuts, the overtime tax repeal, and The Game Plan package. The speaker stated these were all important legislative achievements that were good investments for the state.
In the upcoming session, Ledbetter said that they would have to continue to think outside of the box to incentivize people to want to work because the problem was not people just being lazy. He provides ideas such as offering transportation and childcare that would help fix the problem and allow people to work.
“I really think we have got to continue to think outside the box,” Ledbetter said. “That’s like the program we talked about with transportation. I think childcare is going to be so important for underemployment. I think we’ve got to continue to work on that. And I do believe that we’ll come up with some solutions. It’s not just the fact that these people don’t want to work. That’s not it there’s more to it than that. Are there some that is? Probably so I’m going to be honest about it. But the fact of the matter is they need transportation, they need childcare.”
After the speech, APR asked Ledbetter about Medicaid expansion and raising the minimum wage as other ideas to incentivize workers. On Medicaid expansion Ledbetter said that they will look at “healthcare” but the idea of Medicaid expansion “scares” a lot of people. Regarding minimum wage, the speaker felt that government should stay out of the way of businesses but it would still be something that they look at in the legislative session.
APR also asked Ledbetter if he had a comment on Mayor Bubba Copeland’s suicide and legislators intending to file legislation targeting the LGBTQ+ community. Copeland took his own life last Friday, two days after he was outed by 1819 News for cross-dressing on online platforms. Rep. Susan Dubose, R-Hoover, plans to reintroduce her “what is a woman” bill which transgender people say is discriminatory to them and Rep. Mack Butler, R-Gadsden, is seeking to expand Alabama’s “Don’t Say Gay” law to 12th grade.
Ledbetter stated that the death of Copeland was a “tragedy that should have never happened.” Ledbetter went on to say that he thinks it’s sad when someone is attacked but, the speaker said it is unclear what was going on in Copeland’s personal life and whether 1819 News is necessarily to blame.
“But I think it’s a tragedy when somebody is attacked, and in a manner where it causes ill feelings or death and the fact of the matter is we don’t know all of what went on,” Ledbetter stated. “We don’t know all the background. We don’t know everything. I mean, everybody kind of scopes in on that one piece that was in 1819. We don’t know if that’s what it was. I don’t know what’s going on in his life. I think the best thing we can do if we care here for people in the community, is pray for him. You know, we need to pray for his family. We need to pray for him.”
In terms of legislation targeting LGBTQ+ communities, Ledbetter said it was somewhat premature as he was not aware of the potential legislation that may be brought forth or dropped. But the speaker did mention that the legislative body would continue to look at the situation involving Alabama’s libraries.
“You know, there’s been a lot of talk about what’s in libraries,” Ledbetter said. “And you know, there’s been some concerns about that. So we’ll continue to look at that and continue to stay on top of what’s coming.”