I left Madison at 6:45 AM this morning, headed to Montgomery for what I know will be a difficult week. I arrived at the State House just as the Senate was going into session at 10 AM. We began debating HB360, the state-wide school calendar bill shortly after coming into session. This bill has caused me great concern because it strips local power from school boards and superintendents. I offered the first amendment, allowing school systems to “opt out”. The Senate sponsor of the bill, Senator Pittman (Baldwin County) moved to table the amendment. In other words, a yes vote was a vote to oppose the amendment as it tabled the amendment. After significant debate I lost the amendment in a 23 – 11 vote. The next amendment offered was by Senator Sanford (Madison County) his amendment was to allow school systems to apply for a waiver that must be granted by the State Superintendent….an end around to a system being able to opt out. His amendment failed in a 13 – 17 vote…we thought we were getting closer. A successful amendment was offered by Senator Dial. His amendment accomplished two things, first, the amendment places a hard, sunset provision on the bill in 15 months and second requires the Legislative Fiscal Office to gather data and provide a report to the Legislature on the impact of this act on state tax.
In the end I opposed the bill, even as amended with a hard sunset. I continue to believe that this bill strips power from the local boards of education, dictating from Montgomery what is best for the local systems. I simply could not support that. We fought the good fight for almost 7 hours but final passage occurred in a 25-10 vote. The House concurred with the Senate amendments and the bill has gone to the Governor for signature.
The Senate then picked up the debate on the Education Trust Fund Budget a little after 6 PM. After some debate the Senate version of the Education Trust Fund passed in a 30 – 4 vote.
On other news, SB28, a bill establishing the age a child must start school at age 6 passed the House and is on the way to the Gov for signature. This bill passed the Senate last month. I voted against this bill in committee but helped craft an amendment on the floor allowing the parent, legal custodian, or guardian of a child who is six years of age to opt out of enrolling their child in school at the age of six years by notifying the local school board of education, in writing that the child will not be enrolled in school until he or she is seven years of age. I not only believe in local control for schools, I believe parents know what is best for their children - not the government.
The Senate adjourned just after 9 PM...making for one long day that started at 7 AM. In closing, after a long day where I feel somewhat battered having spent most of the day in the trenches attempting to defeat the school calendar bill, I thought I’d share a cartoon from last year of Max and Scout discussing the budget. Max and Scout are a couple of characters I doodled last year. I may have lost my “creative edge” with them as I've not drawn them in some time but I am glad I saved these cartoons and hope new readers of Bill’s Blog enjoy them. You can read more and see the actual Max and Scout here.
Semper Fi - Bill