We worked late into the night on Thursday of last week, adjourning after 8 PM. I know my limits and decided to stay the night in Montgomery rather than fighting falling asleep on the 3 hour drive home. Several years ago I wouldn’t have given a second thought to driving long distances late at night...guess I’m getting older and wiser!
On Saturday morning I participated in the Chick Fil-a’s 5K in Athens. It was a beautiful day for a run and over 400 people turned out to support the event. The volunteer turnout of those working to make the event a success was most impressive!
The Senate went into session at 1:30. Dr Alan Weatherly, Senior Pastor at Asbury United Methodist Church, where my family worships, lead the Senate in our opening prayer. His usual words of wisdom were inspirational to my colleagues as we started the week's work.
Tennessee Valley Caucus - This morning I attended the Tennessee Valley Caucus meeting where we were honored to have Mr. Bill Johnson, President and CEO of TVA join us. This meeting proved especially interesting as President Obama announced the selling of TVA as part of his 2014 budget. The economic importance of TVA to our region in providing reliable, efficient and economical power should not be underestimated. Mr. Johnson shared in our meeting that TVA is fully self funded and maintains a AAA bond rating...it will be interesting to watch this unfold and I can’t help but notice the political implications at play here – is TVA in a blue state?
Education Budget - Most notable this week – the House passed the Education Budget on Wednesday evening. This is the first time in the three years that I have served in the legislature where both budgets have passed the first house this early in the session. Alabama maintains two budgets, one for General Fund and one for Education. Each year a budget starts the legislative process in each legislative body, and then passes through the other body. The Senate passed the General Fund budget in late March. The Senate begins working on the Education budget next week. Highlights of the proposed $5.7 billion Education Budget includes:
- A $175 million increase over the current 2013 budget.
- A 2% pay raise for teachers and support staff – the first raise since 2008
- $5 million is set aside to provide liability insurance for teachers. Currently teachers receive this coverage through a third party – paying dues to the Alabama Education Association (AEA). This proposal has teachers receiving the same coverage as state employees currently receive through the state.
- Combined – the 2% pay raise and cost of membership dues – an education employee would see over a 3% pay increase should they elect not to be covered by the AEA’s insurance.
- The proposed budget also includes $12.5 million for the state's pre-kindergarten program.
The Senate adjourned at 3 PM for the day and my normal three hour commute back to Madison turned into almost 4 hours as I hit the storms and Birmingham rush hour at the same time. It is nice to be home and I look forward to the weekend!