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Legislature’s Longest-Serving Member Addresses BCA Tuesday Briefing

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Senate Rules Chairman Jabo Waggoner answered his first legislative roll call in 1966 as a young House member. After a hiatus from 1984 to 1990, Waggoner returned to the Legislature as a state senator and has served as Senate Minority Leader, Senate Majority Leader, and now, Senate Rules Committee Chairman.

Sen. Waggoner spoke today to the Business Council of Alabama’s Tuesday Briefing, which was sponsored by The Laclede Group, since 2014 the owner of Alabama Gas Corp. Alagasco began serving customers in Montgomery in the 1850s and today serves 425,000 customers in Alabama.

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The Senate reconvenes today and tomorrow for the 17th and 18th days of the 2016 regular legislative session that cannot last beyond 30 working days. After taking next week off, the House and Senate will reconvene on April 5.

One of the most pro-business legislators, Sen. Waggoner reviewed bills important to the Alabama business community that have passed the House and Senate or are still in the process of passing.

They include HB 37, a constitutional amendment by Rep. Arnold Mooney, R-Birmingham. It asks voters to enshrine the right to work in the Alabama Constitution. A major piece of legislation for the BCA, the amendment will be on the November general election ballot.

Sen. Waggoner said a bill that was very important to him is HB 174 by Rep. David Faulkner, R-Birmingham. After Governor Robert Bentley signed the measure on Feb. 25, local governments were prohibited from approving minimum wages for private businesses in their jurisdictions.

Waggoner said when Birmingham was debating a higher minimum wage for private businesses, he received calls from retail, restaurants, and “so many people in the Birmingham area that could not” afford a higher minimum wage.

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“That was a big deal to me and y’all,” Sen. Waggoner told the Tuesday Briefing audience.

Alabama follows the federal minimum wage. A higher minimum wage in Birmingham actually would have harmed those who work for minimum wage and those seeking entry-level jobs as employers would have had to adjust work schedules, hire fewer employees, and even lay off current employees to meet the imposed expense.

Sen. Waggoner said another bill important to him is HB 62 by Rep. Victor Gaston, R-Mobile. It would extend the state tax credit for rehabilitating qualified historic structures until 2022. The bill is on the House 10-minute calendar.

“It’s transformed downtown Birmingham and has helped all over the state,” Sen. Waggoner said.

Sen. Waggoner said he expects the Senate after the spring break to take up the $6.3 billion, 2016-17 Education Trust Fund budget, HB 117 by Rep. Bill Poole, R-Tuscaloosa. It passed the House March 8 by a vote of 105-0.

There’s also a proposed $800 million bond issue to build four new 4,000-capacity prisons and refurbish some of the “newer old prisons” to house Alabama’s overflow prison population.

“I think it will pass,” Sen. Waggoner said. “The efficiencies created will pay off the bond issue.”

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Sen. Waggoner said he expects the Governor to veto the already-passed, proposed $1.8 billion 2016-17 General Fund budget, HB 125 by Sen. Trip Pittman, R-Montrose, because the Governor believes its $700 million appropriation to Medicaid is insufficient. “We’ll override it, I’m confident,” Sen. Waggoner said.

As Rules chairman, Sen. Waggoner said he spends weekends reviewing bills for the next week and creating proposed special order calendars. He said he tries to place minority party bills on the calendar and weed out bad bills.

“All bills don’t make it onto a special order calendar,” Sen. Waggoner said. “I try to concentrate on pro-business bills because that is going to cause Alabama to grow.”

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Dana Beyerle
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