Taylor: Regular session has been productive so far
Published 4:59 pm Tuesday, March 27, 2012
By ROBBYN BROOKS
BNI News Services
The regular session of the Alabama Legislature convened on Feb. 7 and the Senate has already racked up a list of accomplishments.
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“In the first half of the session, a lot of non-controversial, minor legislation has passed,” said Sen. Bryan Taylor, R-Pratville who represents District 30 which includes Butler County. “But there are a couple of things that are particularly noteworthy for our district.”
Taylor said a bill has already made it through the Senate that would give a minimum classroom supply allowance of $300 for each teacher in Alabama.
“If the bill passes and the governor signs it, the allowance will be recurring each year,” Taylor explained. “We made that a part of the foundation program.”
Before this bill, teacher allowances were given on a budget-by-budget basis and, for many years, there were no allowances at all. The $300 more than doubles the amount teachers received last year.
“Given what our educators and schools have been through, it’s not a lot,” Taylor said. “But, it should help teachers not have to spend money out of pocket for pencils, paper and other supplies.”
The Senate also passed bills to give a $5,000 salary supplement to National Board certified teachers, to target fraud and waste in government programs by making it a crime to fraudulently obtain public assistance and to strip taxpayer-funded portions of retirement from anyone convicted of a felony related to the misuse of their position.
The Alabama Senate is in adjournment until 2 p.m. on April 3 and there are many hot-button topics up for discussion when they reconvene.
The House and Senate both have passed a bill out of committees that would repeal the 2007 pay raise legislators gave to themselves. It would also eliminate the automatic cost of living increase for legislators and will replace the current pay system by tying compensation to median household incomes in Alabama.
“It is an important accountability issue,” Taylor said. “We work for the tax payers. This bill would mean that our compensation will be directly linked to the well being of the people we serve.”
Taylor said he is optimistic the bill, which would be a Constitutional amendment, will pass and will be submitted to Alabama voters in November.
Another bill out of Taylor’s committee will give some clarity to what teachers can and cannot accept as Christmas gifts. Taylor said the bill hosts a bright-line rule that allows for gifts of $25 and under.
“The real controversial issues are coming up,” Taylor said. “We are going to have to deal with how to make appropriate tweaks to the immigration law that addresses issues that have arisen while keeping the law strong.”
Taylor also said pension reform and charter schools will be big topics of discussion. He’d also like to see a bill to limit legislative terms to three years make it to the floor.
The issue of redistricting most likely won’t be discussed until a possible special session is called by the governor. Taylor said that only the topic at hand can be discussed during a special session and that hopefully would prevent “political horse trading.”
“That helps ensure the redistricting process isn’t held hostage by other political considerations.”