Senate President Pro Tem Backs Business-Oriented Agenda, Charter Schools

Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh today said the Legislature that was elected in 2014 has business’s backs. Speaking to the Business Council of Alabama’s Governmental Affairs Committee, Marsh, R-Anniston, said he believes that the 2014-18 Senate class will be even more productive and responsive to voters than the class of 2010. The 2010 class was the first Republican-majority Senate and House since Reconstruction.

Marsh said voters in 2014 kept the Senate majority and sent five more pro-business senators to Montgomery, giving the GOP a supermajority of 26 out of 35 senators. “I truly believe we’ve got a better group of pro-business senators than last time,” Marsh said. 

A centerpiece of pro-business legislation is SB 45, the School Choice and Student Opportunity Act, which is supported by the BCA. Marsh, the bill’s sponsor, said he expects it to pass today in the Senate.

“This is very important for business and, obviously, very important for the children of Alabama,” Marsh said. “The (poll) numbers show that the people of this state want (education) choice.”

SB 45 would authorize a limited number of public charter schools and give parents of children trapped in poorly functioning schools the ability to move their children without having to physically move their families to a better school district.

The House charter school bill, HB 192, is scheduled for a public hearing at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday in the State House.

On other subjects, Marsh addressed Governor Robert Bentley’s proposed 2015-2016 General Fund budget, which would increase taxes mostly on business and produce an estimated $541 million in new revenue.

Marsh said while he hopes the “bills will be introduced out of respect for the governor,” the legislation only presents a one-time fix for the state’s fiscal condition.

“This is not fixing long-term problems,” Marsh said, adding that among Bentley’s proposals, a cigarette tax increase probably has the best chance of passing.

Marsh said he has been meeting with stakeholders about continued government “right-sizing” that determines the essential services state government should provide, and a simpler, fairer tax code.

He said fairer tax code legislation will be introduced in a future legislative session and would require a statewide vote. “We’ve got to get through the problem of this year,” 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