Weekly Newsletter: May 23, 2013
The Alabama Legislature met for the 30th day of the 2013 Regular Session on Monday and adjourned sine die at midnight. I am proud to have presided over the Senate for my third Legislative Session.
Two Military Bills Receive Final Passage
I am pleased to report two of the bills drafted and advocated for by the Military Stability Commission received final passage.
- HB 338 by Rep. Paul Lee (Senate version by Sen. Phil Williams): Allows military members to receive professional license and academic credit for relevant skills learned and utilized while serving in the military.
Often when members of the military or veterans apply for jobs or try to obtain professional licenses, they face the challenge of relating skills acquired in the military to the workforce. This bill helps ensure that when our military men and women return from deployment or retire from service, they may be able to transition more easily into the workplace.
- HB 424 by Rep. Barry Moore (Senate version by Sen. Bill Holtzclaw): Extends in-state tuition benefits to active service members & families who are stationed in Alabama.
It’s unclear when BRAC will come up again, but it is the Military Stability Commission’s and my goal to be prepared when it does. Reinforcing Alabama’s role as a good host to military families and installations by introducing measures like extending in-state tuition rates to service members, helps build up our defense against dramatic changes due to BRAC.
The bills passed with bipartisan support. We may not agree on everything, but I appreciate Republicans and Democrats putting aside political differences to support our military men and women, and veterans. Thank you Senator Majority Leader Jabo Waggoner and Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh for placing these bills on the special order calendar for passage on the final day of the session.
The Senate diligently worked until the last possible minute to conduct the people’s business, but unfortunately, some work was left unfinished. An article in the Montgomery Advertiser discusses the dozens of appointments to boards and commissions the Legislature failed to confirm. While two of my appointees were confirmed early on in the session, two others were not, including an appointment to the Alabama Ethics Commission.
Also in the last hour, two government streamlining bills poised for passage, failed to reach the Senate floor for a vote. SB 122, by Sen. Jimmy Holley, created efficiencies within the legislative branch and SB 116, by Sen. Phil Williams, streamlined the state’s information technology functions. These bills could have resulted in saving the state millions of dollars, but died in the basket. Sen. Williams took a point of personal privilege in the last minutes of the session to express his disappointment, and I am disappointed too. While the Legislature continues to ask state agencies to streamline, it should act to implement changes to the way the legislature operates and manages its resources.
Reflecting on the Session
Before the Legislative Session began, I said in The Alabama Municipal Journal (pg. 22) that the 2013 Session would be historic, and I believe it was. The Alabama Legislature moved this state forward and passed measures that will have a significant impact for long-term progress of the state.
After six governors attempted before, Governor Robert Bentley successfully made the construction of a Gulf State Park lodge and convention center a reality providing an economic boost for the state and lasting funding tool for other state parks. For the first time, the Alabama Legislature passed real education reform by redirecting and renewing our commitment to investing in students and not schools. The Legislature also streamlined public safety services to create efficiency and save money. The delivery model for Medicaid was modified to better serve the more than 900,000 Alabamians who rely on the essential service. And the state’s largest road and bridge improvement initiative expanded to allow all 67 counties the opportunity to invest in their infrastructure.
Legislation is often reactionary; the government has a knee-jerk reaction to solve an existing or developing problem. But I believe these measures are visionary. This session, legislators bravely turned from the status quo and solved problems further into the future.
On this coming Memorial Day, as you pay tribute to fallen members of the Armed Forces, consider the sacrifice our men and women in uniform, and their families make in service to our country and state. I am proud to live in a state where we respect and honor our military. God bless our troops and the Great State of Alabama.