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Opinion | Productive session offers promise that Alabama’s best days are yet to come

The people of Alabama should be proud of what lawmakers accomplished throughout the last three months.

House Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter
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It’s been a little over two weeks since the Legislature adjourned Sine Die, and I believe the people of Alabama should be proud of what lawmakers accomplished throughout the last three months.

There is always more work ahead of us, but when I evaluate the productivity or success of a session, I ask myself, “Did we improve the lives of the people of Alabama?”

As I look back at what we accomplished and how it impacts Alabamians, the answer to that question is a resounding “yes.”

Recognizing that the rising cost of childcare is making it financially impossible for many Alabama parents to work, we passed Childcare Tax Credit legislation. It provides employers, both large and small, with tax credits for providing childcare to employees, which helps parents – especially single parents – return to or stay in the workforce and provide for their families.

Many of Alabama’s high-wage jobs are found in places like Huntsville, Birmingham and Mobile, but one common thread among these cities is a lack of affordable housing, which prevents many eligible workers from seeking employment. Taking an approach similar to the childcare issue, we passed the Housing Tax Credit, which was ably sponsored by State Rep. Cynthia Almond and will go a long way in helping people get back to work.

Another piece of legislation that is going to positively impact Alabamians is the cap on property tax increases that was sponsored by State Rep. Phillip Pettus. Some areas of Alabama have seen property taxes increase by as much as 68% year over year as a result of annual reappraisals, and many families are being literally taxed out of home ownership as a result. I’m proud that the Legislature put an end to this trend by passing legislation that caps property tax increases at 7% each year. Homeownership is and always will be a vital component of the American dream, and we’re committed to protecting that in Alabama.

Alabama’s investment into providing career tech training in K-12 schools is yielding some incredible results, so we took it one step further by establishing a diploma for students planning to pursue the trades instead of going the four-year route. Carried by Rep. Kelvin Lawrence, the Career Pathways Act will give students the opportunity to choose career tech over college prep and train for the jobs they want to pursue post-graduation.

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Thanks to ETF Chairman Danny Garrett’s leadership, we also made a record $9.3 billion investment in public schools, community colleges and four-year universities. For the fifth straight year, Alabama’s teachers are also getting a well-deserved pay raise. The starting salary for classroom teachers is now $47,600, which ranks the highest among our neighboring states.

Partnering with Governor Ivey, I was proud to cosponsor the CHOOSE Act, which ensures our students receive a strong education regardless of their zip code. With the passage of this legislation, Alabama has cemented itself as one of the most pro-school choice states in the nation while also making record investments in our public schools. 

As Alabamians prepare to head to the polls and elect our country’s next president in November, we took additional steps to safeguard the integrity of elections by banning ballot harvesting and ranked-choice voting.

The Legislature also continued its trend of supporting Alabama’s active-duty service members and veterans. Rep. Chip Brown passed legislation paving the way for Alabama’s first comprehensive plan for veteran mental health care. The Alabama Department of Mental Health and the Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs will develop a plan to address issues like substance abuse recovery, traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder within our veteran population.

I told my members before we started that I was going to ask them to make some difficult votes. I’m proud to say that they did so with the highest level of professionalism and treated each other with respect.

In the end, we passed a lot of strong legislation this session that will go a long way in making Alabama an even better place to call home.

To me, that’s what defines a successful session, and I look forward to carrying this momentum into the summer as we prepare for another productive session in 2025.

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Nathaniel Ledbetter is the speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives.

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