Next stop was Children’s and Youth Affairs at 9:30. We debated SB196 at this meeting. This bill deals with child custody and was the subject of a two hour public hearing last week. The sponsor of the bill provided a substitute bill based on changes from the public hearing. He provided an overview of the changes yesterday afternoon but was not able to have the new bill, incorporating the changes, completed until this morning. Some committee members did not have the opportunity to review the changes and were concerned about moving the bill out of committee until they had time to do so. Other committee members simply stated this bill needed to be killed in committee. I disagree. This bill has run its course through introduction, public hearing and committee work. It is time to move forward to a floor debate and stop the blocking tactics. I agree that further clarification is needed in some areas of the bill and moving the bill out of committee will continue to force the debate. Simply put – our system of determining child custody needs improvement. To further delay this bill implies that our children are being done justice through the courts. I believe that is not the case and thus this bill will be further debated. Last note, emails are running close to 50/50 on this very passionate issue. You can read the substitute bill here.
My next meeting was at 10:30, the General Fund Committee meeting where we had a controversial bill as well – SB 309 which addresses changes to the State’s public employee health insurance plans. This bill was carried over after a public hearing and the sponsor has agreed to tweak several areas. This bill is yet another piece of the budget puzzle and attempts to address the growing unfunded budget liabilities in health care that our state faces.
I then chaired the Veteran’s Affairs Committee meeting at 11:30 – no controversial bills here! Next stop was a couple of meetings concerning other legislation in the pipeline. I was also able to meet with representatives of the Alabama Supercomputer Authority (that’s just fun to say.)
After a snack for lunch I was off to the Education Policy Meeting for a two hour public hearing on SB310, the tenure reform bill. To be honest, I felt that we heard extreme stories from both sides of the argument here. Proponents shared stories where teachers, convicted of crimes, were still on the pay roll for years. Opponents shared stories where a coach’s wife needed a job so a non-tenured teacher was let go. The chair did a great job holding the public hearing and in the end I commented that the hire/fire practices of years gone by caused us to develop the tenure laws of today. However, the pendulum has swung too far to the other side and I’m committed to reforming (NOT repealing as some want readers to believe) tenure laws. We need to swing the pendulum back towards the middle but prevent it from going too far the other way. I’m optimistic we can do just that and am committed to working towards that end. Before going home tomorrow I will have compiled thoughts on SB310 sent to me by others via email and provide them to the sponsor for his review and distribution to the committee members. I want to thank those who thoughtfully and professionally sent me their ideas on improving this bill.
At 3:30 I was able to squeeze in one more committee meeting, Small Business. Thankfully, no real controversial bills at this meeting…okay, we carried one bill over but it will get worked out pretty easy.
We go back into session at 10:00 tomorrow morning. I have a Tennessee Valley Caucus meeting at 8:00 but, before that, will call in to the Dale Jackson Show concerning SB196 and other legislative items at 7:00.
I plan to catch up on a few emails tonight; I’m waaaaay behind with all of the reading and studying bills for committee and floor votes. Thanks for understanding if I’ve not gotten back to you. I have every intention to reply to emails and am still working on replying to hand written letters sent to me on various topics.