Ten Highlights from the 2016 Legislative Session

By Clyde Chambliss

 

I am thankful and honored to represent you in the Alabama Senate. I was elected to the Senate in 2014, and the past year and a half has been quite interesting: an organizational session, two regular sessions, two special sessions…and the possibility of another special session this year!

Despite a number of political distractions, the Legislature had a productive session this year. Here are ten highlights:

  • The budgets were passed early this year. This is “the only” Constitutional duty of the Legislature and I’m excited that we have flipped the calendar. Postponing the budget was done for a myriad of reasons (and not all of them bad) for decades. But passing budgets early in the session is a tremendous improvement over the status quo, and a big goal accomplished for me.
  • We have also changed the status quo from across-the-board cuts to using a scalpel for targeted spending adjustments based on priority. Some agencies were cut, some were level-funded, and some were increased. Those increased include the National Guard, Courts, Corrections, Public Health, Mental Health, DHR, and Medicaid.
  • Medicaid was increased by $15M but falls $85M short of the requested $100M. We have shifted money from the essential functions of government for years and we cannot continue to do so. Medicaid is still an issue and we have held five of seven scheduled Medicaid hearings to figure out what the Legislature can do to control costs.
  • Increased education funding for textbooks, classroom materials, dual enrollment, and transportation. Also increased funding for Alabama’s voluntary pre-K program by $16M to fund 2,790 new students.
  • Teachers received a much needed cost of living adjustment (COLA). I supported the raise after I did my homework. The wage of the average worker in Alabama increased by 13% from 2008 to 2015, while the average state employee’s wage increased by 5% from 2008 to 2013. Yet the average K-12 employee’s wage increased only by 2.5% from 2008 to 2013. Supporting this COLA was a priority for me because investment in education is vitally important.
  • Passed a Constitutional Amendment for the November ballot that will require all funds collected at State Parks be used for State Parks. I supported this legislation and urge a “Yes” vote in November. State Parks are a tremendous asset for our state and bring in significant tourist dollars.
  • There were several bills that were passed to protect young people. I sponsored legislation that makes aggravated abuse of a child under the age of six a Class A felony. We also passed legislation expanding suicide awareness training and prevention in K-12 schools and a law allowing District Attorneys to pursue capital murder charges if abuse of a child results in death.
  • We passed a bill to allow Alabama taxpayers to deduct contributions to Health Savings Accounts on personal state tax returns.
  • I supported and we passed two economic incentives bills that will help increase jobs in Alabama.
  • Banned the brutal practice of dismemberment abortions. Also, prohibited Public Health from issuing or renewing licenses for abortion clinics located within 2,000 feet of K-8 schools.

There were many other good bills in addition to those highlighted above. So, when it seems that all you are hearing are negative things in the press and on social media about our state’s politics, please know there is a core group of good, honest, hard-working legislators in Montgomery working for you. God bless you, and may God continue to bless the great State of Alabama!

Senator Clyde Chambliss represents District 30 in the Alabama Senate, which is comprised of all or parts of Tallapoosa, Chilton, Autauga, Coosa, and Elmore counties. Follow him on Twitter: @Clyde_SD30