Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh today (Feb. 12) predicted a successful legislative session that should include passage of government efficiency measures, education initiatives, and fulfillment of a promise to repay $437 million that voters approved shifting from the Alabama Trust Fund last year.
“We think this is the year of efficiency in state government,” Marsh, R-Anniston, told the Business Council of Alabama’s Governmental Affairs Committee.
Marsh outlined concerns about a bill that would allow employees to possess firearms in their locked vehicles parked on private property parking lots while at work.
“We knew it was going to be an issue this session after what happened in Connecticut and what happened in Dothan,” Marsh said. “As a business owner our company policy made it very clear you can’t have firearms.”
BCA President and CEO William J. Canary said the gun parking lot bill tests constitutional issues concerning firearms and private property rights.
Canary said if the bill becomes law businesses should have immunity from lawsuits, should be able to opt out of the law’s provisions, and the law should apply to both the public and private sectors.
Marsh said the Alabama Trust Fund repayment bill is the first measure that he and Hubbard want passed. The repayment legislation, HB94 by Rep. Jay Love, R-Montgomery, passed the House last week and was pending in the Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Accountability Committee.
“That bill will be presented to the governor this week,” Marsh said, referring to Gov. Robert Bentley.
Voters last year approved taking $437 million from the oil and gas royalty Alabama Trust Fund to bolster the general government budget. But no repayment provision was included in the constitutional amendment that was presented to voters.
Marsh said as a businessman he wants competent future employees from schools and believes that a flexibility will give local systems the opportunity to try innovative K-12 teaching methods when needed.
“I do believe anything we do this session with education is about economic development,” Marsh said. “As a (businessman) I can tell you the struggles businesses have finding the right people with the skill-set to come in and be employed.”
Sen. Bill Holtzclaw, R-Madison, sponsored SB 54, the Local Control Flexibility Act of 2013, and Rep. Chad Fincher, R-Semmes, sponsored the House version, HB84. The House Education Policy Committee approved Fincher’s bill on Feb. 6. Holtclaw’s bill is in the Senate Education Committee.
The bills would allow creation of innovative K-12 schools, flexibility contracts between local boards of education and the State Board of Education, and authorize the State Board of Education to write rules, according to the bills’ synopsis.
“I hope to see the flexibility bill come out of the House today,” Marsh said.
He also said that he and Bentley have worked out differences in proposed public safety initiatives.
Government consolidation measures were scheduled for Senate consideration this week. They included SB122 by Sen. Jimmy Holley, R-Elba, that would reorganize House and Senate operations. The bill was carried over last week to give Senate Democrats more time to study its ramifications.
Marsh said the 2013 regular session is the third since Republicans gained control of the House and Senate in 2010.
“We are as prepared for this session as any that I’ve come into,” Marsh said. “We’re in position to have early victories to build momentum.”
– Dana Beyerle