The chiefs of staff to House Speaker Mike Hubbard and Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh updated the Business Council of Alabama’s Governmental Affairs Committee today on legislation progress in the 2010-14 quadrennium and the 2014 legislative session that is more than one-third completed.
Josh Blades, chief of staff to Hubbard, R-Auburn, and Philip Bryan, chief of staff to Marsh, R-Anniston, said good and bad legislation have been dealt with – good legislation that is important to the business community is passing and bad legislation that legislative leaders believe is bad for Alabama has been killed.
A significant BCA-supported bill that is on today’s House calendar is HB384 by Rep. Mac Buttram, R-Cullman. Buttram’s dual-enrollment bill is a boon for qualified high school students who can get a jump on well-paying technical careers by enrolling in a two-year school while still in high school.
The BCA supports the bill known as The Alabama Future Workforce Initiative that authorizes tax credits to personal or business scholarship donors and expands the current workforce initiative at the two-year college level.
HB384 authorizes limited tax credits for donations to a dual-enrollment scholarship program, donations that can be earmarked up to 80 percent to particular programs. The legislation caps the scholarship fund at $10 million, an amount that would allow 9,542 new students to participate in Alabama’s dual-enrollment program, up from 2,100 this year.
The BCA supports the legislation because it will help students gain the skills and education that employers need. “The business community in Alabama is, by far, the largest consumer of the product created by our state’s school systems, so it is imperative that graduates possess the skills and education that the 21st century workplace demands,” BCA President and CEO William J. Canary said.
“It’s an innovative idea, getting kids ready for skilled-trades with dual enrollment,” Blades said. “It will help the dropout rate, too. Hopefully the Senate will be able to pass that quickly as well.”
While the House has moved business-friendly legislation quickly, Bryan said the Senate is taking a more deliberative approach, having to deal with policy, politics, and dynamics, especially since some senators have June primary and then fall election opposition.
“Our guys want to go slower this session,” Bryan said. “While policy is great, politics is sometimes a trump card.”
Blades reiterated Marsh’s desire to push the Taxpayers Bill of Rights II over the goal line this session. The House-passed TBOR II, as it’s called, is on the Senate calendar in position for consideration.
TBOR II, HB105 sponsored by Rep. Paul DeMarco, R-Homewood, is supported by the BCA advocacy team and members of the Business Associations Tax Coalition (BATC) team. TBOR II would update the original, 22-year-old Taxpayers Bill of Rights, abolish the Department of Revenue’s Administrative Law Division, and change it to an independent Alabama Tax Appeals Commission within the executive branch. The bill would allow local governments the option of using this tax appeals commission or their existing appeals process to settle local tax disputes.
This bill has wide support in the business community. It has passed the House by an overwhelming margin each of the four years of the current legislative term.
Hubbard and Marsh previously spoke to BCA Governmental Affairs Committee members.
Blades repeated the guiding philosophy of the Legislature that gained a Republican supermajority and pro-business outlook in 2010. “The best way to grow the economy is to keep taxes low and make it easy for the job creators to do what they do best,” he said.
Blades said “fantastic” legislation that has passed since 2010 include tort reform, ethics reform, teacher reform, school choice, tax incentives to create jobs.
“The rest of the story is let’s talk about the things we haven’t done,” he said. “We have killed so many bad pieces of legislation in the last four years that never even registers on radar because they know they’re dead.”
Blades said “bad” legislation includes job-killing mandates in the insurance industry, onerous regulations in energy and manufacturing, a number of tax increases, removing the federal income tax deduction for state income tax purposes, higher unemployment taxes, cigarette taxes, and increases on specific industries such as the coal industry. And, Blades said. “we’ve prevented environmentalists driving the discussion how we use resources,”
“We did this all because it’s the right thing to do,” Blades said.