I know a lot of you are very busy, working one, sometimes two jobs while raising a family, or possibly going to school. Maybe you are a retiree, busy helping with your grandchildren during the week, and attending church on the weekends. If that’s the case, you probably don’t have a lot of time to keep up with what is going in the Legislature. So, I am going to be writing a short column from time-to-time, to update you on the happenings in the State Senate in Montgomery.
Under the Alabama Constitution, the state legislature is instructed to meet for 30 legislative days each year to conduct the business of the people. The 2015 Regular Session of the State Senate began on March 3rd when Lt. Governor Kay Ivey gaveled the Senate to order.
On the Monday before the Session began, my fellow Senate Republican colleagues and I introduced an agenda called “Paving a Path for the Future.” It’s a blueprint for how state government can be smaller, smarter, and more accountable to the people. Two of our highest priorities in “Paving a Path for the Future” are fostering job growth and empowering education.
To create a climate for job growth, my Senate Republican colleagues and I are working closely with Governor Robert Bentley on his “Made in Alabama” jobs incentive package. Since Alabama won the recruiting battle for the Mercedes plant, states across the southeast have expanded and upgraded their incentive package. The consensus of a range of business leaders and researchers is that our state must revamp the incentives we offer to new and existing businesses, if we want to remain competitive. To that end, the incentive package creates a new jobs credit of 3% for companies creating at least 50 new jobs in Alabama, on a pay-as-you-go system, where the state will receive tax revenue from the project before the incentives are paid.
A significant focus of the incentive package is promoting job growth in under-developed economic areas and rural areas. The media tends to focus on large companies building new sites in urban areas, but jobs are also needed in rural Alabama, not just in the big cities. So, the incentive package raises the 3% jobs credit to 4% for a project located in an under-developed economic area. The “Made in Alabama” package is a set of three House Bills- 57, 58, and 59. The Senate passed HB59 on Thursday, and we are working to soon pass HB57 and HB58.
Empowering education is a key part of job growth, since better education outcomes give our students access to better jobs. That’s why I was proud support Senate Bill45, the School Choice and Student Opportunity Act, which was signed into law by Governor Bentley last week. This Act will allow local school boards to convert existing public schools into accountable, public charter schools. In addition, parents will be able to submit an application to their local school boards to start a public charter school within the local school system. A public charter school has autonomy over key decisions like finance, personnel, schedule, and instruction, and it operates as a public institution within the local school system. They are held to the highest standard of accountability. If a charter school fails to meet the standards set in their charter, they are closed. This provides a great deal of incentive for public charter schools to help their students excel.
The School Choice and Student Opportunity Act is the product of much discussion and input from the education community as well as my colleagues on both sides of the aisle. It is important to me that everyone has a seat at the table as we continue to improve the quality of education available to our children. It is my goal to improve the system as a whole by creating more options for parents.
I am proud and humbled to serve as your State Senator. Please contact me if there is anything you need, because I am here to serve you.
Senator Gerald Allen represents District 21 in the Alabama State Senate, which is comprised of all or parts of Tuscaloosa, Pickens, and Lamar Counties. He is chairman of the Senate Transportation and Energy Committee. Follow him on Twitter for the latest legislative updates: @SenGeraldAllen