The press likes to say we are raising their contribution by 50%...a true statement, 50% of 5% is 2.5%, but it certainly makes it sound worse than it is…anything to sell papers I guess!
I supported the bill for a couple of reasons. First, this was brought to the legislature as a part of Gov Bentley’s plan to balance the budgets. If the bill were to fail, public schools and colleges would have to come up with over $82 million from the state Education Trust Fund to pay pensions for employees and retirees next year. This money can now be spent on salaries or other operating expenses. Estimates showe that passage of this bill will prevent over 1,500 layoffs alone in 2012.
From the Democrat perspective you’ll hear and read them say we should have closed business income tax loopholes that could have raised millions instead of raising employing contribution costs for pensions. These loopholes were not created last November and I remind readers that the Democrats controlled the legislature for decades. Why didn’t they work to close the alleged loopholes then? As I’ve previously spoken to in this blog, Governor Bentley is working with the Revenue Office to close loopholes through executive and administrative orders. Read more here.
Make no mistake, I’m frustrated at the position I’ve been placed in regarding this bill. No easy answers to be found. On one hand, it is a travesty that those “protecting” the state employees from seeing an increase in employee contribution let this go on for 24 years. The State match has grown to near 13%...paid by the taxpayers. Does anyone think that the cost of retirement has not gone up in 24 years? Simple math, when the outflows outpace the inflows, the end is near! This is not an option as so many retired state employees struggle in these times as well. And as the Democrat lead legislature decided upon a hands off approach for years – we are left cleaning up the mess. Again, this was a very difficult vote for me but the alternatives of laying off state employees or raising taxes were not options for me.
Lastly – making good on a promise I made months ago; I will cut my legislative pay in the same fashion as state employees when this bill goes into effect in October 2011.
HB18 – the next bill of the day was HB18, a Pro-Life Bill. The bill requires a physician to determine the age of the unborn child before performing an abortion and prohibits abortion after 20 weeks. The bill is based on medical findings that an unborn child is capable of feeling pain by the 20th week after conception. Failure by any physician to follow the regulations outlined in the bill will result in a Class C felony. Of note, I’ve been told that a Pro-Life bill has not passed the Alabama legislature since…,well forever. HB18 passed the Senate in a 26 – 5 vote and is on the way to Governor Bentley for signature into law. I’m proud to have been a part of this historic vote, protecting the unborn in our state.
Affordable Health Care Act, better known as Obama Care. The next vote the Senate took up was HB60. This bill proposes an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama that would prohibit mandatory participation in any health care system. Funny, but sad to watch the D’s filibuster, pretending they care about the people but actually are simply in lockstep with their national agenda. Proving my point – one of the D’s filibustering the bill voted for it in 2010; amazing. The bill passed 24 – 9 and will now be on the ballot for the people to decide as a Constitutional Amendment.
The next bill debated was a Voter Photo ID Bill. This bill requires voters to have a photo ID to vote and allows for the Secretary of State to provide photo IDs at no cost to those who need them. The democrats argued that this bill disenfranchised the elderly, poor and under privileged making it harder for them to vote. I have no doubt that some people will need a photo ID because they don’t currently posses one but the bill makes provisions for them to obtain a photo ID at no cost and therefore I fully support this bill. The argument of disenfranchising voters holds no merit. This bill will ensure that a person voting is in fact that person and serve as a tool to address the fraudulent voter practices prevalent in areas of our state. I do question the logic that a large number of people will suddenly need a photo ID…think about how often you have to show a photo ID; how are these people getting along now? The bill passed the Senate 22-10 and is headed to Governor Bentley for signature.
Other than the HB414 vote today was a banner day and a pretty good way to wrap up the 2011 Legislative Session. We eventually went to the very last hour of the very last day, adjourning at midnight as the democrats delayed progress at every turn. They actually had the State Board of Education redistricting bill read at length prior to the vote...burning 3 hours of the final day...3 hours were productive bills could have been passed. Bet you wont read about that in the papers.
This will be my last daily blog (unless we go into special session later this year) until we reconvene in February of 2012. I will restart the monthly newsletters in July.
Thanks to all for reading the blog and allowing me to share my thoughts in this manner. While we may agree to disagree on some points, I hope you've found it helpful. As I return to the District my focus in the months ahead will be on jobs, roads, schools and continued tornado recovery efforts.
And so I bid readers of Bill’s Blog; Sine Die and Semper Fi