Alabama Senate Minority Leader Quinton Ross spoke today at the Business Council of Alabama’s Tuesday Briefing. Sen. Ross, D-Montgomery, talked about the remainder of the 2016 regular legislative session.
This morning’s briefing was sponsored by the Montgomery Chamber.
The House and Senate reconvene today for the 13th working day of the legislative session, which cannot last beyond 30 working days.
Noting that the session nears its halfway point, Sen. Ross said the two state budgets remain unpassed. “We still have a lot of work to do,” he said.
The proposed 2016-17 Education Trust Fund budget is first on today’s House special order calendar while the proposed 2016-17 General Fund budget has passed the Senate and is in the House Ways and Means General Fund Committee. The bill is on Wednesday’s House Ways and Means General Fund Committee agenda.
“When you get them done, that’s pretty much it,” Sen. Ross said of the budgets.
The Legislature must end its current session on or before May 16. “We’re on a course that we could get out a few days early,” he said.
Sen. Ross spoke of a bill he sponsored last year and which he said he plans to reintroduce this session – “ban the box” legislation.
Sen. Ross said he did plan to introduce ban the box legislation this year and thanked the BCA and members of the business community for working with him to try and find solutions.
“Banning the box” generally refers to eliminating the question on the initial employee applications that asks about an individual’s past arrest or conviction record. Sen. Ross said that he understood there are concerns over his legislation but said there is much common ground to be sought and that is his goal.
But SB 327 as introduced presents numerous challenges for the business community, including extensive communications and record-keeping requirements for employers, audits and fines enforced by the Alabama Department of Labor, and a new private cause of action against employers.
BCA members are encouraged to provide feedback on this legislation to Trevor Parrish at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sen. Ross also addressed many of the misconceptions surrounding banning the box. He indicated that there is much common ground to be sought and that is his goal.
Sen. Ross discussed the Alabama Digital Learning Study Commission which was created last year within the Alabama State Department of Education. In creating the Alabama Digital Learning Study Commission, lawmakers seek to identify effective and sustainable technology-based learning in classrooms.
For example, through digital access, students can take field trips without ever leaving school. “We need to be creative in the classroom,” said Sen. Ross.