House Speaker Opens 2017 Business Council of Alabama Legislative Briefings

House Speaker Mac McCutcheon began his first full legislative session as speaker at today’s Business Council of Alabama’s Governmental Affairs Committee that schedules meetings each Tuesday morning during regular legislative sessions.

Today’s meeting was sponsored by Alabama Power Co.

Alabama Power Vice President for Governmental Affairs Alexia Borden unveiled the company’s new logo that reflects its growing footprint.

Speaker McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, outlined a few issues that will be addressed during the next 15 weeks of the session that must end on or before May 22. They include Alabama’s road and bridge infrastructure needs, a proposed state prison bond issue of $800 million, a redistricting court order for a dozen House or Senate districts, the chances for budgeting reform this session, and possible Medicaid changes.

In 2016, Speaker McCutcheon sponsored infrastructure investment legislation as part of the discussion of Alabama’s important road needs. While the 2016 Legislature put in place a mechanism to accept new funding, it is expected to deal with funding this session.

“We made progress educating people of Alabama about the needs we have,” McCutcheon said. “Part of the discussion is moving forward with a highway plan. I want this discussion to continue the next couple of weeks. We will put the parts together.”

Attending today’s Governmental Affairs Committee meeting was 2017 BCA Chairman Jeff Coleman, president and CEO of Coleman Worldwide Moving in Dothan. Coleman Worldwide Moving is the largest Allied Van Lines agent in the world and relies almost entirely on trucking, which cannot operate efficiently without good, safe roads and bridges.

Coleman said road congestion due to inadequate infrastructure costs transportation $50 billion a year. “We have a big agenda on infrastructure,” Coleman said.

The BCA is a founding member of the Alliance for Alabama’s Infrastructure that consists of a group of business and community leaders who believe that it is time for Alabama to address growing infrastructure needs with a reasonable, long-term solution that puts Alabama’s transportation infrastructure back in working order and allows us to invest in our future.

Speaker McCutcheon was first elected in 2006 and became speaker in August. He promised House cooperation on business issues that, in addition to transportation infrastructure improvement, include whether to borrow up to $800 million to build four new prisons, budget reform.

Speaker McCutcheon said the House has Medicaid reform on its agenda, including initial operation of Medicaid’s new Regional Care Organization structure. He said discussions of Alabama’s Medicaid program must be done with potential funding changes from Washington, D.C. “If they give us block grants and a whole lot of mandates, won’t be in any better position,” he said. Speaker McCutcheon said the 14-member joint House and Senate budget reform task force is gathering facts on how Alabama budgets for general government and schools but won’t have its recommendations this session.

“The problem is last year we based our debate on rumors,” Speaker McCutcheon said. “Let’s find out what waste we have. We need facts.”

Speaker McCutcheon closed his remarks with a pledge to work with the business community on vital issues that relate to jobs, economic growth, and prosperity. “You have a pro-business, friendly Legislature, especially in the House,” he said.