“In 2006, Democrats ran on a platform they called the Covenant for the Future and promised to quickly push it through both houses, but four years later, they had succeeded in passing just three of the 16 items they promised despite controlling every committee and leadership position,” House Majority Leader Micky Hammon said. “We Republicans have vowed not to make the same mistake as the Democrats, and we are committed to passing each of these items into law so Alabamians may judge us not only by what we say, but also by what we do.”
Hammon noted that most of the items in the session agenda were included in the Republican Handshake with Alabama, an omnibus platform of specific, issue-oriented bills that GOP candidates across the state supported as a group. Democrat Party leaders have credited the Handshake with helping Republicans win supermajorities in both houses of the Legislature for the first time in 136 years.
Among the items in the Republican Caucus’ 2011 Legislative Agenda are:
- The Responsible Budgeting and Spending Act, sponsored by Rep. Greg Canfield (R – Vestavia), which would require state revenue estimates in the Education Trust Fund to be based upon a rolling 15-year average rather than undependable “finger in the wind” income projections. Passage of this legislation will help rein in spending, lessen the possibility of proration and allow the budget to more easily absorb changes in a cyclical economy.
- A bill sponsored by Rep. Kurt Wallace (R – Maplesville) that will ensure Alabama remains a right-to-work state and that employment costs remain low by protecting the right to a secret ballot in union elections. With passage of this bill, no worker will be intimidated or harassed by voting his or her heart and conscience in the workplace. It is being offered as a counter to Obama-backed “card check” legislation being considered in Congress.
Republican Caucus Agenda
A capital creation bill being sponsored by Rep. April Weaver (R – Brierfield) expands the small business health insurance tax credit from 150% to 200% of the amount that both employers and employees pay for coverage premiums. This bill will provide business owners with more capital to create jobs and ensure access to quality, private health coverage for employer and employee alike.
- A constitutional amendment sponsored by Rep. Blaine Galliher (R – Gadsden) which would “prohibit any person, employer or health care provider from being compelled to participate in any health care system.” This amendment is similar to measures introduced or passed in at least 30 other state legislatures across the country, and, if passed by the Legislature and ratified by voters, could be used in court cases opposing implementation of Obamacare.
- Handshake legislation offered by Rep. Mike Jones (R – Andalusia) that will provide the Alabama Ethics Commission with a statutorily defined level of appropriation that can be cut only by a two-thirds vote of both houses. That way, no legislator can retaliate against the agency and its important watchdog work by cutting its annual budget.
- Ethics legislation being sponsored by Rep. Mike Ball (R – Madison) requiring public officials and their spouses to disclose any contracts they hold with government entities.
- A comprehensive, Arizona-style immigration bill sponsored by Hammon that, among other things, allows local law enforcement the authority to verify the citizenship status of those they detain, requires business owners to confirm new hires with the e-verify system and creates new penalties for illegal immigrants who attempt to vote or register to vote.
In addition, two bills not included in the Republican Handshake with Alabama have been added to the Caucus’ official priority list.
State Rep. Barry Mask (R – Wetumpka) has introduced a measure that repeals that state’s Deferred Retirement Option Plan but grandfathers those already enrolled. Since its passage a decade ago, many have considered DROP, which allows some public employees to bank pension benefits in a side account while continuing to work beyond retirement age, to be a costly and controversial program in desperate need of repeal.
Republicans have also included a photo voter ID bill being sponsored by Rep. Kerry Rich (R – Albertville). Currently, citizens may show non-photo bearing items ranging from utility bills to bank statements to paychecks in order to gain access to the voting booth. Recognizing that this system continues to invite fraud, Rich’s bill would require citizens to present a valid, government-issued photo ID before being allowed to vote in elections.