GOP wants to create jobs during Alabama session

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By Bob Johnson
The Associated Press
Original Article Published:Thursday, Janary 12, 2012

MONTGOMERY | Republican leaders in the Alabama Legislature said Wednesday that their priority at the beginning of the 2012 regular session next month will be to pass bills that will encourage businesses to create jobs.

Senate President Pro-Tem Del Marsh said the first bills he expects to come up for consideration in the Senate are measures that will provide incentives for businesses that create new jobs and for new industries that bring jobs into the state.

House Speaker Mike Hubbard told the Birmingham Rotary Club that the Republican leadership in the House is proposing a slate of bills that will give the state more tools “to recruit new industry and to help existing industry expand.” Hubbard of Auburn was the first Republican speaker in Alabama in more than 130 years.

“We must keep innovating and finding ways to give Alabama a competitive advantage in economic development,” Hubbard said.

“The number one issue we are dealing with is jobs. We have a whole package of bills that will stir the economy,” Hubbard said later Wednesday.

A Republican from Anniston, Marsh said “anything that we consider job producing legislation if going to be a priority” early in the session, which begins Feb. 7.

Alabama’s unemployment rate was 8.7 percent in November, an improvement from previous months, but Marsh said he would like to see it drop much lower.

“I would honestly love to see it get to 5 percent,” Marsh said.

Marsh said he doesn’t expect legislators to pass budgets until later in the session when members may have a better idea of what the economy will do.

One bill to be considered early in the session is a measure by Rep. Duane Bridges, R-Valley, that would increase incentives for companies that hire veterans of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Bridges said his bill would offer a $2,000 tax credit to employers who hire an unemployed veteran.

“A lot of guys are coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan and looking for jobs and we want to help the veterans out so they won’t be out on the streets,” said Bridges, a former Marine. He said he expects the bill to be considered at the start of the session.

Hubbard said one priority of the session for Republican leadership will be to pass a bill authorizing charter schools in Alabama. Charter schools are public schools that are free from much of the bureaucracy and regulations of traditional public schools.

He said he recently took a group of legislators to Memphis, Tenn., and was impressed with how well charter schools work and allow for innovation.

House Minority Leader Rep. Craig Ford, D-Gadsden, said Democrats also want to see new jobs created in Alabama, but believe the best solution to the state’s financial problems is eliminating tax loopholes for large corporations. He said Democrats plan to meet soon to decide which bills will be a priority in the upcoming session. He said he’s heard Republicans talk about creating jobs before.

“That was their priority last session,” Ford said.

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