“I say it’s No. 1 on the list,” said Rep. Randy Wood, R-Anniston. “Polling shows people are more concerned about jobs than anything.”
That has been the first priority since the beginning of the 2012 session of the Alabama Legislature, local officials say. Wood specifically discussed House Bill 159, a bill that would give local employers a tax credit for new hires.
“That was probably the best thing we did,” Wood said. “What it does, it lets an employer hire new people, and if he meets certain requirements, then he can keep 50 percent of the Alabama withholding tax to use in his business.
“That’s an incentive to hire more people. And that’s what we need is more jobs.”
That bill was one of a number to push through the Legislature during the early portion of the session. Also on the list were incentives to hire veterans, cracking down on unemployment compensation fraud and incentives to recruit coal-mining projects.
“Each of these bills passed with strong bipartisan support,” said Rep. Dickie Drake, R-Leeds. Drake, who is also a member of Jefferson County’s legislative delegation, said he is also working on legislation to end non-user fees for residents of Jefferson County who do not use the county’s sewer system.
“That’s the same bill my brother (Owen Drake, who died in the summer of 2011) introduced,” he said. “That’s very important to a lot of people.”
Rep. Jim McClendon, R-Springville, said he and Sen. Gerald Dial are preparing legislation to provide tablets for public school students. McClendon said he believes improved technology could save the state education system millions of dollars in textbook costs.
“We spend every year $65 million in textbooks,” McClendon said. “We haven’t spent any the last 2 years, and the books are deteriorating — they have a lifespan of about 7 years. We’ll put the textbooks on these tablets, and we’ll end up saving the (Education) Trust Fund a significant amount of money.
“This is where we’re going eventually, and everybody’s going eventually. My thinking is, I’m ready to go there sooner rather than later. I want these children prepared; if they’re going to college or work, it’s a digital world. If this works, 9-12, we’ll probably start working our way back down.”
Rep. Blaine Galliher, R-Gadsden, said he is also crafting legislation that would allow students to take time away from campus for religious classes, as well.
“It just simply allows a group to petition the school board to have release-time classes,” said Galliher. “South Carolina has the exact bill. If you want to teach — you can only get 1 credit hour — if you wanted to take a credit class on the Bible or wanted to learn Judaism as a history, you can go off campus and teach the class.
“You have to get approval, of course; everything is permissive. It just allows a group to have a classroom away from the school, if you will. They can teach religious classes; a book of the Bible.”
Wood also noted that the House passed a bill that would give teachers incentive for special certifications, as well.
Sens. Del Marsh and Scott Beason could not be reached for comment.
Contact Will Heath at firstname.lastname@example.org.