House Rules Committee Chairman Mac McCutcheon spoke to the Business Council of Alabama’s Governmental Affairs Committee today on issues that will dominate the remainder of the 2015 regular legislative session.
They include final passage of an update to the 2013 Accountability Act, the Open Meetings Act, legislative oversight, prison reform, Governor Robert Bentley’s package of taxes, and budgets.
McCutcheon, R-Huntsville, chairman of the powerful agenda-setting committee, said the Legislature soon will begin to tackle state financial issues for the 2015-16 fiscal year that will begin Oct. 1, especially the ailing General Fund that will be at least $250 million short of level funding.
“We’ve got our work cut out for us,” McCutcheon said
McCutcheon spent a few minutes of his address to the BCA Governmental Affairs Committee about the role the House and Senate have played since 2010 when pro-business legislators were first elected and again when the 2014 elections that boosted pro-business numbers.
“This Legislature, we are pro-business and pro-economic development,” he said. “I’m very thankful for that.”
Evidence of that is early passage of three economic development bills, he said.
An important bill for business today is on the House special order calendar, SB 80, the Innovator Liability bill supported by the BCA. SB 80 would restore Alabama’s long-standing product liability law and put us back in line with a majority of states that have rejected the innovator liability theory. SB 80 previously passed the Senate 32-0 with bi-partisan support.
Important issues this session also include regulating lawsuit lending, tax and fiscal policies that are unfair to business, support of business-backed education efforts, opposition to health care mandates, and the creation of new causes for injurious lawsuits.
McCutcheon said that the House and Senate will begin debating budget-related bills including the proposed General Fund budget, gambling as a source of revenue, a proposed flat tax, and the future of earmarking.
Paramount in budget discussions will be the fate of Governor Bentley’s proposed $541 million package of tax increases to pay for general government programs. McCutcheon said the choices to balance the budget will be to increase taxes, cut spending, or use a combination of both options.
“The sixty-four thousand dollar question is where the revenue is going to come from,” he said. “I don’t believe anyone in the House or Senate or the governor can stand up and say this is what we’re going to do.”
But, he said, when the issue of un-earmarking is on the table, the concern will be to protect education.
Republicans took control of the House and Senate in 2010 and added to their numbers in the 2014 election cycle. McCutcheon said he believes the GOP caucus will not be closed-minded in addressing the state’s finances.
“I see a pro-active caucus willing to look at everything put on the table,” he said.
Rep. McCutcheon also sat down with Dana Beyerle and Leah Garner to answer a couple of questions for the Business Council of Alabama’s Two-Minute Tuesdays.