A Freshman’s View of the Alabama Senate

By Tim Melson

As a new senator, the first week of the legislative session in March (the current legislative session will run through June) reminded me of my days in medical school: I was entering a new environment, had to quickly digest huge amounts of information, and grow accustomed to a place with its own traditions and quirks. No day is the same in the Senate. You may spend an hour learning complex rules for procedure on the Senate floor, followed by a constituent call with a request for a letter of recommendation for their son, and then have a series of meetings with the Legislative Fiscal Office and other senators to discuss the general fund and education budgets. It is busy and chaotic, but never dull.

The main theme for the Alabama Senate Republicans’ 2015 agenda has been “Paving a Path for the Future,” with a focus on fostering job growth, reforming education, and protecting taxpayer dollars.

To spur job growth, the Senate passed the Alabama Jobs Act, which provides economic incentives to companies that create a minimum of 50 new jobs in the state. A companion bill, the Veterans and Rural Jobs Act, provides additional incentives and tax credits to companies that create at least 25 new jobs in rural counties and for companies that hire veterans. These incentives will help us attract new businesses, and encourage our existing businesses to expand by building new factories and job sites.

The Senate passed the School Choice and Student Opportunity Act to allow the formation of public charter schools. Forty-two other states have already implemented charter schools, and giving parents and students another education option is the responsible thing to do. A ZIP code should not determine the education choices a family has, and public charter schools will encourage innovation in our education system. The Senate also unanimously passed the fiscal year 2016 education budget, which increases funding for voluntary pre-k and textbooks. This budget is fiscally responsible and will avoid proration.

Protecting taxpayer dollars is a priority: the Prison Reform bill will prevent a federal takeover of Alabama’s prisons, and will help solve the problem of overcrowding in our prisons by instituting smart sentencing reform. The Mandatory Tax Expenditure Report will require the Legislative Fiscal Office to produce an annual report for the legislators and the public to show every credit, exemption, economic incentive, and deduction being used. These two bills should save millions of taxpayer dollars.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve you in the State Senate. I will continue to keep you updated about what’s going on in Montgomery. Please contact me if I can be of service to you.