Two pieces with a different flair but the same focus passed the House of Representatives last week.
Rep. Jim McClendon, R-Springville, said Friday that he and Sen. Gerald Dial, R-Lineville, introduced legislation to allow spaceports within the state. McClendon said he believes space travel will become more privatized in the future, and he wants the state to be at the forefront.
“We’re going to throw Alabama to the front of the track when it comes to commercial use of rocketry and sub-orbital flights,” McClendon said. “This could be one of the biggest things to ever happen to our state, from the standpoint of job creation and being at the forefront of the space race.”
McClendon said the state is working with the Federal Aviation Administration on the issue. He believes the creation of such ports will create jobs and draw tourists.
“The opportunity for job growth and job development is tremendous,” he said. “We’ll have a responsibility of job force development. Most of that maintenance is something we already do; we just don’t do it on these devices.
“There will be substantial infrastructure that will be part of this, and there will be substantial peripheral development that will be part of it.”
McClendon was also part of legislation that passed both houses this week, to allow industries to operate inside of prisons, using inmates as a labor force. The legislation requires that participation in the industry be voluntary, and that inmates be paid the “prevailing wage” for the area where the prison is located.
“Part of (their salary) will go to offset the costs of keeping the prisoners there,” McClendon said. “Right now the taxpayer pays for 100 percent of it. Part of the money will offset that cost, and part of the money can go to restitution, of the victims of the crimes. Part of the money can go to the prisoner’s family — the family has lost a breadwinner, and this will be a chance if they’ve got children, to pay for their well-being.
“And then part of that money will be held in an account on behalf of the prisoner, so when he is released, he won’t be broke when he walks out the door.”
McClendon said similar programs in other states are showing positive results.
“We’ve got over 30 states that have successfully instituted this program,” he said. “So it’s not like we don’t have any guidance on what works and doesn’t work.”
Rep. Blaine Galliher, R-Rainbow City, said the House also passed a measure to revise the way the Legislature is paid. The bill would make the pay commiserate with the median income in the state, and all pay raises would be moderated by a separate entity.
“That was a campaign promise we made and we kept,” Galliher said. “For the first time, I think we have established a procedure that has clear transparency.”
Galliher said the House also restored a stipend for teachers who are National Board Certified, as well.
“They have to go through quite a comprehensive program to attain that accreditation,” he said. “It shows, to me, that they’re willing to go above and beyond what’s required of them. They incur additional expense, additional time to achieve that accreditation.”
Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, said the Senate is currently examining ways to offer incentives to attract more industry to the state, while still accommodating small businesses.
“Historically it’s always been one certain business, and if you were a competitor, you just took it on the chin,” Beason said. “There are a lot of discussions now — how do we move in the future toward a very positive, pro-growth, pro-job environment for the state, so we don’t always rely on individual incentive packages. Just the beginning of those discussions is a huge step forward in the state.”
Beason also noted that the House has introduced revisions to the state’s immigration law this week, which passed last year.
“I am still in the same position I’ve always been,” he said. “We’re going to clarify some of the things that seem to be misinterpreted in the law. I have no intention of doing anything that would weaken its effectiveness, and we’re definitely not going to repeal the thing.”
Rep. Dickie Drake, R-Leeds, highlighted the Savannah Hardin Mandatory Reporting Bill, which received a favorable report from the House Children and Senior Advocacy Committee this week. Notably, the act requires “any Alabama citizen who suspects or has knowledge of child abuse and neglect report it to the Department of Human Resources or law enforcement.” It would also hold those reports harmless, if they are found to be unsubstantiated.
“Placing added protections and safeguards in the law to help ensure our children are protected from abuse and neglect is of paramount importance to me and I appreciate my colleagues in the Legislature for being so supportive of this measure,” Drake said. “Empowering the citizens of this state with the ability to assist in the fight against child abuse will result in more criminals being brought to justice for heinous acts against children.”
Contact Will Heath at firstname.lastname@example.org.