The 2013 Legislative Session of the Alabama Legislature began on February 5th with a bang. From all accounts, this promises to be a busy and lively session. Hopefully, it will also be productive. All of the many problems carried over from last year are still around, and they must be dealt with. Most observers believe it will be a tough session. The legislators will have to address numerous issues that will require additional funding. All too many of the problems facing legislators have been around for much too long without being worked out. Hopefully, the approach of kicking the old can down the road will be a thing of the past. The following are areas of concern that should be addressed during the session:
• Our state’s tax code must be revised and made fair and equitable.
• Any real problems in the state’s Medicaid program must be “fixed” and the program properly funded.
• Providing adequate funding for the state’s court system is a must.
• Public education at every level must be made a top priority by action and not merely by words.
• Reasonable pay raises for public school teachers, especially in grades K-12, and for state employees are long overdue and badly needed.
• Alabama’s weak consumer protection laws must be improved and made stronger.
• The evils of predatory lending must be dealt with and the necessary legislation to protect borrowers passed.
• Any needed changes in Alabama’s immigration law should be made to make it both fair and constitutional. Otherwise, this issue should be left to the federal government. Hopefully, those in control have learned a lesson and won’t further politicize this issue.
• Critical needs in our state’s road system must be addressed.
• Reform of the 1901 Constitution should be a priority, but it’s very clear that only limited reform can be expected during the session.
• Cutting out any “waste” found in state government programs in a planned and selective manner should be addressed.
Being in control of both the House and Senate, Republicans will have control over how these issues are dealt with. Hopefully, they will exercise control in a bi-partisan manner. The Democrats should be given input in coming up with solutions to the many problems facing our state. Shutting them out of the process would be a mistake. Budgets have been balanced with federal funds and borrowed money over the past nine years, but those days are over.
It’s time for our Governor and legislators to face reality, realize that additional revenues are needed and work together to solve our state’s fiscal problems on a permanent basis. Righting the ship of state will take a combination of additional revenues and cutting out those loopholes in our tax laws that are unreasonable and can’t be justified. An effort to reduce costs, without reducing essential services, should also be a part of this effort. But doing what needs to be done will take considerable political courage!
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