Governor Bentley’s legislative director summarizes the 2013 legislative session

Governor Robert Bentley’s legislative director today summed up the 2013 regular legislative session for the Business Council of Alabama’s Governmental Affairs Committee.

With five legislative days remaining in the scheduled 30-day session, Legislative Director Blaine Galliher said most of the BCA and the administration’s important issues have passed or are in position to pass. They include school accountability, red tape reduction, consolidation of the state’s law enforcement and information technology departments.

The session cannot last beyond May 20.

Galliher said promises Bentley and legislative leaders made to voters are being or have been  accomplished. Specifically, he said, the legislature kept it and Bentley’s promise to begin repaying the $437 million that voters approved taking from the oil and gas Alabama Trust Fund last September to prop up the ailing General Fund that finances regular government operations.

“That was important,” said Galliher, who was a Republican House member from Rainbow City when Bentley tapped him as his legislative director last year.

Galliher also said that bills important to the BCA are moving. The outside attorney contingency fee bill by Rep. Paul DeMarco, R-Homewood, is in the Senate. “We’re looking forward to working with you to make sure that important piece of legislation is passed,” Galliher said. The BCA supports the bill.

Galliher served in the House for 18 years including two terms with Bentley, a former House member from Tuscaloosa. Galliher’s duties as legislative director include influencing the governor’s bills in the House and Senate. The Republican-dominated legislature has been largely receptive to Republican Bentley’s interests.

The school accountability bill that passed will allow parents to move their children from certain failing schools and receive tax credits. “We think this will offer a lot of opportunities for failing schools to turn around,” he said.

Medicaid reform “is a big issue,” said Galliher, who thanked BCA Governmental Affairs Committee members for helping with the bill. SB 340, the Medicaid reform bill by Sen. Greg Reed, R-Jasper, was on the agenda of the House Health Committee today. The  BCA supports the bill.

Galliher said the “old model” of Medicaid was financially inefficient because it was based on a fee-for-service system that generated more federal and state dollars by spending more on patient care. “We had to change that reimbursement system,” he said.

Consolidating the state’s law enforcement functions, creating an IT cabinet secretary position to oversee state technology, and consolidating all fleet purchasing and maintenance will save millions of dollars, Galliher said.

Galliher lauded the successful transfer of the Alabama Industrial Training Institute to the Department of Commerce to aid industry recruiting. He said he plans to work on strengthening the Alabama Technology Network and college and career readiness to aid in training the current and future generation of highly skilled employees.

Galliher cited the importance of limited-tort liability legislation passed for Airbus that announced last year it will build a passenger airliner assembly facility in Mobile, creating thousands of direct and indirect jobs.

“This put us on the tort level playing field with (competitors) Mississippi and Florida,” Galliher said. “(Airbus) will have a large say in where Tier One and Tier Two suppliers are located.”

Galliher said Bentley believes that creating jobs will help the state government budgets and overall economy. “The governor is committed to economic development,” Galliher said.

“We’ve had some good success already,” Galliher said. “It’s been a great working relationship with the House leadership and the Senate leadership and the governor.”

Galliher was the final scheduled Governmental Affairs Committee speaker this regular session.

-Dana Beyerle