Senate Republicans Unveil Forward-Thinking 2015 Legislative Agenda

By Del Marsh & Greg Reed

The Alabama Senate Republican Caucus held a news conference on Monday to announce their legislative agenda for the 2015 session that begins on March 3rd. Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston), Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed (R-Jasper), and other Republican state senators presented eleven legislative proposals, which comprise their “Paving a Path for the Future” agenda. Senate Republicans will work to protect taxpayers, empower education, and create job opportunities.

“We will roll up our sleeves and put in the necessary work to implement these bold reforms, because paving a path for the future will create more opportunity for everyone,” said Sen. Del Marsh. “Senate Republicans are committed to building a lasting, positive impact that makes Alabama a better place to live, work, and raise a family.”

These agenda items will receive priority treatment as they move through Senate committees, along with top placement on the calendar when debated on the Senate floor.

“The members of the Senate Republican Caucus have many great ideas, so paring the 2015 agenda down to eleven bills was not easy,” stated Sen. Greg Reed. “I am so thankful for the commitment of our senators as we take big steps to improve our state.”

The “Paving a Path for the Future” agenda includes the following proposals:

Protect Taxpayers

  • Consolidate State Agencies and Departments – Sen. Marsh
    In order to address the General Fund budget shortfall, additional savings can be realized by consolidating certain state agencies and departments. This will create efficiencies by removing duplicative efforts and unnecessary overlap.
  • Reform the Broken Prison System – Sen. Ward
    Alabama’s prison system is overcrowded and on the verge of a federal takeover, which could cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars. Conservative reform of the system will improve public safety, foster accountability and cost-efficiencies, and increase the level of personal responsibility.
  • Make the Proration Prevention Act Part of the Constitution – Sen. Pittman
    The reform four years ago that has helped prevent education proration needs to be made permanent. This will help balance the budget without proration, build up a rainy day account, and meet commitments to funding education. It is responsible budgeting that forces government live within its means.
  • Continue Retooling Medicaid – Sen. Reed
    Medicaid consumes a growing portion of the General Fund budget, and recent reforms are helping bend the growth curve. However, implementing more system and service efficiencies will help drive better medical outcomes and reduce the overall cost to taxpayers.
  • Require Mandatory Tax Expenditure Reports – Sen. Hightower
    Alabama’s tax code is complex. By requiring the Legislative Fiscal Office to produce annual reports, legislators will increase transparency and better understand how the tax code affects revenue, which could provide opportunities for simplification.

Empower Education

  • Authorize Accountable Public Charter Schools – Sen. Marsh
    Alabama is one of only eight states that limits parental choice by not having public charter schools. Students deserve an opportunity to excel regardless of where they live. Data in the other 42 states shows that public charter schools are a powerful tool to improve education.
  • Provide 21st Century Learning Opportunities – Sen. Brewbaker
    Students need the option to learn through flexible schedules and opportunities. Enabling local school boards to create virtual classes and schools will increase educational opportunities and increase student engagement.
  • Evaluate Education Standards to Improve Student Performance – Sen. Glover
    Learning processes and educational tools are changing at an exponential pace. That is why regular evaluation of curriculum and methods must occur to ensure our students are ready for whatever path they choose after graduating high school.

Create Job Opportunities

  • Design Pay-As-You-Go Economic Incentives – Sen. Williams
    Senate Republicans will work with Governor Bentley and the Department of Commerce to build a responsible pay-as-you-go approach to incentives. This will put Alabama on par with other states while giving the flexibly needed to recruit new jobs and help industry grow, the lynchpin to a fiscally strong state.
  • Encourage Apprenticeships for Skilled Job Training – Sen. Orr
    The Information Age has created an even greater need for skilled labor, and those jobs tend to pay well without requiring long stents in school. Providing apprenticeship incentives will help train new individuals while giving them the opportunity to earn a living.
  • Provide Specific Incentives for Job Creation in Rural Alabama – Sen. Reed
    A couple hundred new jobs in rural Alabama is like thousands in a big city. Having specific incentives to lure business to less populated areas will empower small town Alabama to compete for opportunities and provide much needed employment.

“The constitution gives us 30 legislative days to conduct the people’s businesses,” concluded Sen. Jabo Waggoner. “I can promise you that we will make the most of this time to pass our agenda for the benefits of all Alabamians.”