As we enter the home stretch of the 2018 legislative session and wrap up the final months of this quadrennium, I wanted to take a moment and look back. While things have been moving along very smoothly this session, there have certainly been bumps in the road over the past four years, but now we find ourselves in a place of abundance. Unemployment is at a record low, the economy is growing, and state budgets are in better shape than they’ve been in years. The hard work of identifying waste, cutting spending, and resisting the call to raise taxes is paying off.
But our work isn’t done.
On January 11th of this year, Alabama Senate Republicans unveiled our “Fighting for Alabama” 2018 legislative agenda. The agenda focused on passing balanced budgets, spurring economic growth, encouraging infrastructure improvements, and cutting taxes. I’m proud to say that we have moved the needle on all of those goals.
This past week, the Legislature approved the first tax break for Alabamians since 2006 – now, lower and middle-income families will be able to deduct a little bit more from their state income taxes. According to the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Office in Montgomery, some 200,000 Alabamians will see their taxes go down as a result. The economy is humming, and the right call is put to the excess tax revenue back into the hands of the taxpayers, instead of growing the government bureaucracy down in Montgomery.
Expanding access to broadband internet in rural counties is key to ensuring that all of our state shares in the economic growth. That’s why I was proud to support legislation in the Senate that incentivizes cable and telecommunications companies to invest in rural Alabama. Broadband internet is the communications highway of the twenty-first century and every home, school, and business in Alabama needs access to it.
The Legislature is poised to pass a $6.6 billion education budget for Fiscal Year 2019, the largest budget for our schools in over a decade. Teachers and education support personnel will get a raise of 2.5%, while First Class, our nationally-awarded, voluntary pre-kindergarten program, will see an increase of $20 million. And for the seventh consecutive year, Alabama’s schools won’t have to worry about proration, a specter that used to regularly haunt our schools during past years of fiscal irresponsibility in Montgomery.
Perhaps the legislation I’m most proud of this session is Senate Bill 179, which establishes severe penalties for individuals found guilty of obstructing an investigation into human trafficking. Should SB179 receive final passage in the House of Representatives, any person who obstructs a police investigation into a first-degree trafficking case will now be guilty of a Class A felony, which carries a minimum jail sentence of ten years.
Doing the people’s work has been a distinct privilege, and has been both rewarding and humbling. President Dwight D. Eisenhower once said, “Politics ought to be the part-time profession of every citizen who would protect the rights and privileges of free men.” It has been an immense honor representing you in the Alabama Senate. If you ever have a question about a particular bill, please don’t hesitate to call my Senate office at (334) 242-7085.
Dr. Larry Stutts is an OB-GYN who represents Senate District 6, which is comprised of all or parts of Marion, Lawrence, Lauderdale, Colbert, and Franklin counties, in the Alabama Senate. He and his wife, Jackie, make their home in Tuscumbia.