The Education Policy Committee met at 8:30 on SB191 (Sen Marsh) dealing with requiring physicals for School Bus Drivers. Personally I’m amazed this was not already a requirement.
Children and Youth Affairs was next, we worked on two bills, passing both out of committee. SB262 (Sen Irons) addressing elder abuse and SB280 (Sen Williams) addressing the state providing a foreign born birth certificate to children adopted by Alabama parents.
The General Fund Committee met at 10:30; we worked through five bills, carrying a couple over for additional work. I’m happy to see us following through on our commitment to work through and amend bills in committee rather than on the floor…it is called a committee meeting for a reason.
I chaired the Veterans and Military Affairs Committee at 11:30; we worked through four bills, passing all four out of committee. It was interesting to note that while this committee was starting we heard a large crowd outside the State House, demonstrating support for Nursing in Alabama. I made mention in my opening comments that this contrasted well with the demonstration yesterday by opponents of HB56, Alabama’s Immigration law, and that because of the brave men and women serving our nation in uniform today, groups like these are able to demonstrate peacefully…something we all need to remember.
I was able to meet with several other groups after the committee meetings. I met with a group from the Professional Fire Fighters of Alabama, a group from the State Department of Corrections, and the State Employees Association.
At 2 PM I held the first ad-hoc meeting on ATPRO (discussed in yesterday’s blog). The meeting was attended by two Senators and three Representatives – demonstrating some genuine interest in the bill. I later had a couple of members let me know that they were tied up in committee meetings but that they were interested in helping craft a workable bill. A couple of interesting ideas were discussed but some clear opposition to ATPRO was identified. We have a lot of work to do - but we are communicating.
I attended the budget hearings from 2:30 to 5:00 PM. Medicaid and Corrections briefed us. These two departments alone consume 55% of our General Fund budget. Think about that, for every $1 of revenue, fifty-five cents is spent on these two state functions. The Medicaid Director has done a great job maximizing the return on federal dollars. I am also amazed at what the Dept of Corrections does with the little funding they receive. Alabama spends over $40 a day, per prisoner - that’s housing, food, medical, and corrections staff. Some think sentencing reform is the answer; arguing we’ve made our laws so strict that we send too many “non-violent” offenders to jail. While I’ll agree we need to work this issue, prison overcrowding and our recidivism rates are very discouraging. However, I will not support measures to weaken our criminal code. Do the crime – pay the time.
Tomorrow will be a very busy morning. I have the Tennessee Valley Authority Caucus meeting at 8:00 AM. I serve as the Vice-Chair for this committee and we plan to review our 2012 agenda. I also have a Commerce, Transportation and Utilities Committee meeting at 8:00 (note to self, figure out how to be in two places at once!) We have three bills on that agenda. I then have the Banking and Insurance Committee meeting at 9:00, we have eight bills on that agenda. I’m also pitching a bill on the agenda for the Fiscal Responsibility and Accountability Committee at 9:00 (see note above on being in two places at once…). This bill addresses some concerns with emergency contracting, closing loopholes that have been abused in the past by utilizing an “emergency contracting” provision.
The Senate goes back into session at 10:00 AM. Assuming we adjourn before 2 PM, and I’m able to tie up any loose ends in Montgomery, I plan to stop by the Limestone Republican Women meeting in Athens on my way home.
In closing out this week’s blog I’d like to share a short video made this afternoon by a firm working with the Republican Caucus in the Senate. Obviously I didn't use a teleprompter...being my own worst critic…boy, I look and sound tired in this video – and I need to sit up straight!
You can read more about what the AL GOP Senate is doing and watch other videos at AlSenateGOP.org