Despite Headwinds, a Successful Legislative Session

By Clyde Chambliss

 

The possible impeachment and eventual resignation of a governor create a gale wind that can quickly transform into a hurricane. Such a tempest was the setting for the 2017 session of the Alabama Legislature. The outcome – resignation, and now, a fresh start at the Capitol under Governor Kay Ivey – has been extensively covered in the media. Understandably, less ink has been spilled on the significant policy achievements of the legislative session, but Alabamians have a right to feel proud of the work done by their legislative representatives this past spring.

First, the basics: the Legislature fulfilled its primary constitutional duty by passing balanced budgets for the General Fund and the Education Trust Fund.  Conservative Republican legislators stood up for taxpayers by approving these budgets without any tax increases.

The Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 General Fund budget includes an increase of $3.3 million for the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency to put thirty new state troopers on the road. Of all the functions of state government, public safety is paramount, and I was glad to support the targeted increase for state troopers. The budget also increases funding for the courts, including for juvenile probation officers, some of whom who were in danger of being laid off. Meanwhile, most of the large state agencies, including Medicaid, Corrections, and the Department of Human Resources, were level-funded.

Since Alabamians elected a Republican majority to the House and Senate in 2010, fiscal discipline has defined the budgeting process for both state agencies and our schools and universities. For example, in 2011 the Legislature established the Rolling Reserve Act, which forces the Legislature to annually set aside a portion of the Education budget’s revenue growth in an emergency fund. Because of that fiscal discipline, proration – the sudden, mid-year slashing of school budgets – hasn’t occurred since 2010.

The FY 2018 Education budget is the beneficiary of such disciplined spending over the past seven years. At $6.4 billion, it is the largest Education budget since 2008, and provides funding for one hundred and fifty additional teachers, along with a $13 million increase to build one hundred and twenty-two new classrooms for First Class, Alabama’s voluntary Pre-K program, which was recently named the best Pre-K system in the nation by the National Institute for Early Education Research. I was also happy to support an increase of $11 million for dual enrollment programs, which are essential for giving our students the real-world tools they will need for employment after graduation.

Along with the budgets, the Legislature passed a number of substantive bills, including: autism therapy insurance coverage, a Constitutional Amendment declaring Alabama a right-to-life state, religious freedom protections for faith-based adoption agencies, a ban on assisted suicide, a bill to require civics testing, a protection of historic monuments, a measure to shorten death penalty appeals, the legalization of midwifery, a tax credit for the revitalization of historic buildings, and an update to the Alabama Jobs Act to give cities more flexibility when recruiting new businesses.

All in all, 1,030 bills were introduced and approximately three hundred were passed by both chambers of the Legislature and sent to the Governor’s desk.

Despite headwinds, I am encouraged that conservatives in the Alabama Senate and House led the way in in moving our state forward during the 2017 session. I am proud of our work and I am grateful for the strong leadership of Governor Ivey.

Thank you for allowing me to represent you in Montgomery!

Republican Clyde Chambliss represents all or parts of Autauga, Elmore, Chilton, Coosa, and Tallapoosa counties in the Alabama Senate. Follow him on Twitter for the latest legislative updates: @Clyde_Chambliss