Senate Minority Leader Says His Goal is Healthy Business Climate

Senate Minority Leader Quinton Ross spoke to the Business Council of Alabama’s Governmental Affairs Committee today and addressed healthy business opportunities, universal pre-kindergarten funding, prison reform, and support for significant education standards.

Ross, D-Montgomery, in his fourth term in the Senate, has a background in public education as a teacher and administrator.

As Senate Minority Leader, Ross works with the majority party and outside interests on common goals for Alabamians. He works with the BCA on education outcomes and prison reform.

Ross agreed with a BCA position that was outlined in a recent op-ed by BCA President and CEO William J. Canary: “Our vision is to create a healthy and productive business climate that boosts better education outcomes and enhance workforce training. We stand ready to work with our state and federal legislators as they consider worthy measures that will help businesses keep doors open, meet payroll, support suppliers, and expand.”

“When we talk in terms of job creation and success of small businesses and large we all want our businesses to prosper,” Ross said. “That means our constituents we live next door to can lead a happy life, a healthy life, they can work, and provide for their families.”

Ross said Canary worked with the Senate on the bill sponsored by Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, that would ease prison overcrowding. The BCA’s position is because there’s not enough money to “build your way out of” prison overcrowding other options had to be considered.

Ross brought Senate minority views to the table. The bill passed the Senate overwhelmingly with bipartisan support and was assigned to the House Judiciary Committee.

“One question was how we did it,” Ross said. “Everyone understood the severity of the problem. We had to sit down and work together and that’s what happens when you have an important piece of legislation.”

One of the BCA’s goals every legislative session is continued and incremental funding increases for pre-kindergarten so that after 10 years the program will be fully funded.

Ross said he believes that early exposure to reading and comprehension that is offered by pre-K is the “building block” to a successful and educated population. And early reading and comprehension positively affects the high school graduation rate, he said.

“We need to make the necessary investment to ensure that all of our children have access to pre-K,” said Ross, who has introduced legislation to implement and pay for universal pre-K.

Ross said he supports the Alabama College and Career-Ready Standards that face repeal under SB 101 that is scheduled for a vote in the Senate Education and Youth Affairs Committee. The BCA opposes SB 101 that was sponsored by Sen. Rusty Glover, R-Semmes.

“We stood hand in hand and said we will not repeal (standards) and I hoping that’s the case when we take the vote in the next week or so,” Ross said. He added that the standards adopted by Alabama’s state school board in 2010 and since modified were the product of the nation’s governors and not the federal government.

Ross advocated for Medicaid expansion and the federal dollars that it would bring to the state. “For us to leave that type of money on the table doesn’t make any sense,” he said.

The BCA’s Tuesday morning briefings are held each week during the legislative session and feature legislative and administration officials who discuss topics of interest to Alabama’s business community.

-Dana Beyerle

Sen. Ross 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.