Proposed legislation however went a step further – repealing and defunding any progress made to this point. I opposed that position but was unsuccessful in amending the proposed bill in a committee meeting last week, losing the vote to delete the repeal/defund provision in a 5-4-1 vote (yes, another vote to abstain...I’m always lost when someone votes “maybe” on a bill. I didn’t come here to vote “maybe” – I was sent here to vote “yes” or “no”!) The Common Core repeal bill was then voted out of committee in a controversial voice vote reported here.
Proponents of the repeal had hoped it would be picked up by the full Senate this week. After discussions over the weekend, continuing into mid-day today, the Pro Tem of the Senate determined that the bill lacked overall support in the Senate and determined that the full Senate would not debate the bill further. Make no mistake, we will see legislation regarding the repeal and defunding of Common Core again and I predict it will be a campaign issue in upcoming elections. I truly appreciate everyone – parents, teachers, administrators, businesses and so many others that contacted me and expressed support for my position.
I left Madison at 7 AM this morning, headed to Montgomery for the week. I started the day visiting with 12 students from the Bob Jones High School Young Politicians Club. I enjoyed visiting with these young adults; we toured the Senate Chamber and I was able to share some of my life's experiences with them. The remainder of the morning and early afternoon was filled with meetings concerning pending legislation. I attended the Banking and Insurance Committee meeting where we debated several bills followed by a brief Caucus lunch. The Senate went into session at 1PM and once again took up the Sunset Bills discussed in previous blog posts. After passing a couple of these bills the Senate moved on to other bills.
The Senate passed SB303 – expanding the board Teachers Retirement System (TRS) Board. This was a controversial bill from the start when the original bill was voted out of committee in March. The concerns are that participants from higher education, representing over 25% of the membership, but have not had representation on the board since changes were made to the TRS Board make-up in 1980. The teachers, support staff, principals and superintendents are all represented on the board. The original bill, as voted out of committee last month, added two members from higher education and removed the AEA Executive Director representation. The bill was amended on the Senate floor today, leaving the AEA Executive Director on the board but adding two members for higher education.
Other concerns with the TRS Board include preventing some shenanigans that happened when electing new members just this year. I wasn't fully aware of the internal power struggle with the board but under current rules, one organization distributes, collects and counts the ballots - the AEA. Several requests have been made that an outside, third party be charged with performing these duties. Lastly, the bill changes voting for membership so that principals across the state vote for principals, support staff vote for support staff, teachers vote for teachers, etc. The bill now goest to the House for debate.
After a lengthy debate – over five hours – the Senate passed SB231, the Gulf State Park bill. Essentially this bill allocates anticipated funding paid by BP from the BP oil spill settlement to build a convention center, hotel and restaurants at the Gulf State Park. I do not oppose building a convention center but do not support the state building/operating a hotel and restaurants. I offered an amendment to that end, allowing the building of a convention center only. My thoughts are that the convention center will drive an up-tic in local hotels and restaurants that are currently operating. This up-tic is the only true indication of the free market at work and will then be the driving force for increased economic development activity. The amendment failed and I voted against final passage as I oppose public funding (event if derived from the oil spill settlement) being used to interfere with the private businesses and the free market. This bill now goest to the House for debate.
The Senate then passed SB7 – a bill preventing the use of public funds, aka Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF)...or welfare, for the purchase of alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, lottery tickets, adult-oriented entertainment, etc. Of course the Democrats rallied against this bill for a variety of reasons...all lost on me. Public benefit funds should only be used for the benefit of truly needy families and their children.
The next bill taken up was SB414. This is the “Double Dipping” Bill. One of the first actions of the newly elected Republican majority in 2010 was to prevent those serving in the Alabama Legislature from working for the state. There are several issues here – most notable being influencing and voting on budgets for departments where a member works. Several members are affected by this law as detailed in this report. The procedural vote (BIR) allowing for debate on this bill passed in a 16 – 10 – 1 with several members not voting. I voted against the BIR and against the bill for final passage. If readers recall, I had to make a decision in late 2009, prior to announcing as a candidate for office whether or not I wanted to keep working as a government employee at NASA or serve in the Alabama Legislature. A federal law, the Hatch Act, prevented me from doing both...I had to make a decision and I know I made the right one. Final passage of the bill allowing those currently in the legislature to work for the state failed in an 11-18-2 vote.
It was a long night and the Senate adjourned just before mid-night...and then reconvened at 5 minutes after mid-night to take up the two bills that we ran out of time on the previous day. I’ll blog on those bills tomorrow...
I have two committee meetings tomorrow - the Education Policy Committee and Children and Youth Affairs. Of note, changes to the Alabama Accountability Act are on the Ed Policy Committee meeting – just in time for the Friday PTA meeting!