A couple of high points I’d like to mention from yesterday’s activities:
SB60, a bill I sponsored which passed the Senate in the second week passed the House yesterday and on the way to the Governor for signature. I sincerely appreciate Rep Treadaway’s support in moving this through the House yesterday as well as the Department of Human Resources staff for helping work this through both bodies. This bill is important as it enhances criminal history background checks of new hires in the state.
SB365 – the Alabama School Flexibility Act of 2012 was introduced. This bill allows the State Board of Education to enter into a school flexibility contract with a local school system to allow for programmatic or budgetary flexibility, or both, from state laws, including State Board of Education rules, regulations, and policies in exchange for academic and associated goals for students that focus on college and career readiness. With 17 co-sponsors it has broad support in the Senate and I will start moving this bill through committee next week. You can read SB365 here.
SB143, a bill to reinstate the National Board Certified Teacher stipend, was championed by Sen Waggoner, passed the Senate Thursday. This bill makes good on a promise to teachers who decided to undertake and complete the NBCT process; an 18 month program. I’ve been told there are approx 1800 NBCT teachers in the state. I supported this bill because a promise was made to these teachers and the state should uphold its end of the bargain. The stipend is an additional $5,000 per year for a teacher that has completed the program.
Lastly, I moved my second bill out of the Senate, SB263 which will close several loopholes in the current code regarding contracts issued by state departments during emergency situations. These loopholes have been abused in the past as a way to circumvent the legislative oversight Contract Review Committee.
Texting Ban Bill – the House unanimously passed HB2, a statewide ban on texting and driving this week. The Senate has a similar version, SB144 that was debated on Thursday and met some early resistance. I helped write the ordinance for the City of Madison on texting while serving on the city council and am drafting an amendment that I will introduce next week. The amendment will include exceptions listed in Section 18-36 of the City of Madison’s Ordinance linked here.
I’ve heard from many residents on this issue – from both sides of the argument. I fully recognize texting and driving is a problem but also recognize we currently have “distracted driving” laws that already apply to someone swerving along the road while texting, eating, reading, putting on makeup…etc, the things we see every day. Of note, I’ve done some research on local ordinances. Huntsville, Athens, Madison and Decatur have all passed ordinances banning texting and driving. These cities have had the laws on the books for at least two years…guess how many tickets have been written? One.
I am most concerned in how a ban on texting is enforceable by law enforcement – in other words, how do you know when someone is texting vs. dialing a phone number? If you are pulled over for what an officer believes is texting, but the driver claims he was dialing a number, will the officer need a warrant to view the phone to verify the driver was dialing vs. texting…or will the officer take the driver’s word for it?
I don’t want to simply pass a “feel good” bill. Most people drive the speed limit because it is the law. In similar spirit – are we hoping people won’t text and drive because it is against the law?
Next week we will begin taking up several House bills – including HB159 and HB160. These bills brought together – as they say in politics – some interesting bed-fellows. I’ll share more in next week’s blog. Have a great weekend.
Semper Fi - Bill