Clyde Chambliss Jr. has served in the Alabama Senate since 2014 and believes the climate of progress in Montgomery is better now than it has been in years.
“Things are better,” Chambliss (R-Prattville) said during a recent meeting of the Alexander City Chamber of Commerce.
Chambliss cited an avoidance of proration, building a rolling reserve in the Education Trust Fund, getting a lump sum from BP’s oil spill settlement, punishing corruption, passing an autism bill, setting ethical guidelines for economic development professionals and lowering taxes.
Chambliss — the District 30 senator who represents Autauga, Chilton, Coosa, Elmore and Tallapoosa counties — said he understands the general public’s perception the Alabama Legislature lacks the political will to solve major problems such as expanding Medicaid, overhauling the prison system, improving schools and boosting the state’s cash flow — all while keeping taxes low.
“It’s easy to get frustrated,” Chambliss said. “But you don’t send us there to get along. You send us there to represent you. We are there to debate and express our differences, and come away with what is good for most of the people.”
Chambliss presented these seven observations to support his contention the legislature is working on more stable ground than in the recent past:
• Four years without proration, “which hasn’t happened in decades,” he said. “How did we do it? We’re not flush with cash. We’ve been conservative in our revenue projections and budgeted with margins.”
• Establishing a rolling reserve in the Education Trust Fund. “We have paid back every penny we borrowed from the Education Trust Fund and people said it would never be done,” he said.
• Monetizing funds from the BP oil spill fund. “We sold that stream to get a lump sum,” he said. “It was $1 billion (over time) and we received $650 million. What did we do with it? We paid off some debt, put some into infrastructure and saved some for a rainy day. We carried over $90 million from one fiscal year to the next. That’s unheard of. The General Fund paid back 80 percent of what was owed to the Alabama Trust Fund.”
• Punishing those who abuse the public trust. “It’s not pleasant,” he said. “It happens but we’re taking care of it. People are being removed from office.” Those include former Gov. Robert Bentley and House Speaker Mike Hubbard, both Republicans, and former state Rep. Oliver Robinson, a Democrat.
• Passing an autism bill. “We had a lot of constituents contact us because somebody they know or love has autism and they’re not getting the treatment they need,” he said. “There was tremendous pressure from the other side (including the Business Council of Alabama and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama) to not dictate what they have to cover. We passed a mandatory treatment for autism 99-1. That doesn’t happen in Montgomery.”
• Passing the Alabama Jobs Enhancement Act, which established ethical guidelines for economic development professionals. “The media said we were gutting ethics law but that’s simply not the truth,” he said. “The bill said if you are required to register as a lobbyist, the bill doesn’t apply to you. The takeaway is we did the right thing. And we’re going to be dealing with ethics law again in the next session.”
• Lowering taxes. “The tax per capita in 2001 was 6.5 percent of your income. In 2017, it was down to 5 percent,” he said. “Government has gotten smaller and more efficient. But how low is low enough? We don’t have enough State Troopers on the highway. You don’t get a fair and speedy trial. Corrections and mental health are going to take money to fix. We’re going to have to adjust rates and keep it in that 5 to 6 percent.”