Hubbard happy with ‘productive’ sessionPublished 6:20pm Friday, June 17, 2011
Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard said on Friday that the recent session of the Alabama State Legislature was one of the best in recent memory.
“I really believe it’s the most productive in a long time, if not ever,” Hubbard said. “We followed through with ‘Handshake with Alabama’ and delivered on some promises we made. We accomplished a lot.”
Handshake with Alabama is an agenda unveiled by Republicans last year that laid out what issues would get priority in the state if Republicans earned a majority in either the House or Senate, which they did.
Chief among those issues was creating jobs and economic opportunities. Hubbard said the passing of the “Made in Alabama” Job Incentives Act, which was proposed by his own Commission on Job Creation, was a big step forward in bringing more jobs into Alabama.
“This is an innovative way of recruiting foreign companies using tax incentives,” Hubbard said. “We’re the only state to offer this and it definitely gives us a competitive advantage over other states. A number of companies have contacted us about moving to Alabama only because of this bill.”
The bill allows the state to offer temporary state income tax incentives to offset build-up phase tariff costs for international companies bringing jobs to Alabama.
Hubbard was pleased with the passing of the Students First Act. The law keeps tenure protection for teachers, but gives school systems and community colleges the power to fire teachers at any time for a valid reason.
It also prohibits teachers from appealing layoffs and reduces the length of the termination appeal process to cut costs and still give due process to teachers.
“I believe the tenure reform law will pay huge dividends for students,” Hubbard said. “In the new system, schools are obliged to have the best teachers, whereas the old system dissuaded schools from finding new teachers. This is a huge plus in reforming education.”
The Legislature repealed the Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP), as well. Hubbard said the bill was introduced to keep good teachers from retiring, but it ended up mainly benefitting highly paid administrators and others, rather than actual state teachers.
Passing the General Fund and Education Trust Fund Budgets was another one of the main actions taken during the session. Hubbard had high praise for how the final budget turned out.
“I think it was the best budget we could’ve passed,” Hubbard said. “We were forced to sit down and look at every dime and decide whether it went to something that was necessary or something that was nice, but not necessary.
“We went through and be as judicious as possible with taxpayer money. We cut through the fat and have a lean budget. We don’t enjoy cutting things, but you have to be able to function within your means and provide service to the people at the same time, and I think we are able to do that in this budget.”
Hubbard said legislators were at a crossroads entering the session and that he feels better about status of the state now that it’s over.
“There was a line in the sand where we could either get on one side and embrace status quo or get on the other and try to change things,” Hubbard said. “I think we were able to pass some economic development bills and others that will really make a difference.”