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Opinion | Balancing the scales: Celebrating Alabama’s legislative triumphs

While we remain critical of laws that hinder progress, let’s also recognize these significant strides forward.

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In the tumultuous arena of Alabama politics, it’s easy to get lost in the cacophony of restrictive laws and regressive policies that seem designed to drag us back to the dark ages. The 2024 legislative session saw its fair share of “red meat” laws—those that restrict personal liberty, stifle learning, and harm our most vulnerable citizens, making our state look like a relic of the 1950s. Yet, amid the gloom, there were rays of light worth recognizing.

If politics is truly the art of the possible, the state’s lawmakers are not nearing a renaissance. But even with all the bills that damage the state’s reputation and future, there is hope when reasonable people can agree to work as yeomen toward a common goal of improving the lives of real people.

To ignore the positive strides made would be not only unfair but disingenuous. Acknowledging the good that emerged from this session, thanks to the leadership of Gov. Kay Ivey and the innovative input of Speaker of the House Nathaniel Ledbetter and Minority Leader Anthony Daniels, is crucial.

The Childcare Tax Credit legislation was a win for working families and especially single mothers. Recognizing the crippling cost of childcare that makes it nearly impossible for many Alabama parents to work, this law provides employers, both large and small, with tax credits for offering childcare to employees. This initiative is a lifeline for parents, enabling them to return to or remain in the workforce and better provide for their families.

Another victory comes in the form of the Housing Tax Credit. High-wage jobs in Alabama are predominantly found in Huntsville, Birmingham, and Mobile. However, the lack of affordable housing in these cities has been a significant barrier for many workers. This legislation mirrors the childcare approach, aiming to make housing more affordable and, in turn, helping people secure employment and improve their quality of life.

The state’s commitment to continuing education also saw progress. Alabama’s investment in career tech training in K-12 schools is set to pay dividends, and the Career Pathways Act further solidifies this by establishing a diploma for students who plan to pursue trades instead of a four-year college degree. It gives students the opportunity to choose career tech over college prep, training them for the jobs they aspire to secure post-graduation.

Even amidst passing the public school-killing CHOOSE ACT, the Education Trust Fund made an unprecedented $9.3 billion investment in public schools, community colleges, and four-year universities. For the fifth consecutive year, Alabama’s teachers are receiving a well-deserved pay raise. The steady increase in salaries for classroom teachers demonstrates a substantial investment that not only acknowledges educators’ hard work but also aims to attract and retain top talent to nurture future generations.

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In a legislative session that often felt like a battleground, these achievements shine through as signs of progress. They demonstrate that amidst the noise and controversy, meaningful and positive change is possible. These laws reflect a commitment to improving the lives of Alabama’s citizens while other laws will certainly cause harm.

So, while we remain vigilant and critical of the laws that hinder progress, let’s also take a moment to recognize and applaud these significant strides forward. In doing so, we acknowledge the full spectrum of legislative action—both the challenges we must continue to stand against and the victories we should celebrate.

In the political melee, it’s essential to remember that along with controversial and often damaging legislation, progress can and does happen. There are triumphs among the flames of partisan passion that highlight a promising future—rooted in practical solutions that uplift and empower Alabamians. It is essential to celebrate these victories while persisting in the fight for a more equitable and enlightened state.

Bill Britt is editor-in-chief at the Alabama Political Reporter and host of The Voice of Alabama Politics. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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