By Slade Blackwell
MONTGOMERY — The 2014 legislative session is now at the halfway point. Since it is an election year, this session has been somewhat less controversial than others. However, I am encouraged by what my Senate colleagues and I have been able to accomplish thus far. We have worked hard this session to pass legislation that will continue to help businesses in the state as well as develop our workforce. This includes:
• Legislation to help startup businesses raise capital through crowd-funding
• Changing the law so that fewer businesses will have to make estimated sales tax payments in advance, rather than paying the amount that actually comes in
• Setting up an independent board to hear taxpayer disputes instead of a division within the Department of Revenue
• Setting up a council of business leaders to advise colleges and schools on workforce needs
• Helping high school students take dual enrollment technical courses at community colleges
• Legislation to protect private schools from state regulation and protect local school boards from unfunded mandates
As we enter into the second half of the session, I hope to see more smart legislation passed that will continue to help move Alabama in the right direction.
In the Senate, we will have our work cut out for us in the second half of the session including taking up the general fund. The education trust fund passed in the Senate last week and will now go to the House. The $5.9 billion education trust fund budget includes a one-time bonus for teachers and personnel as well as $62 million going toward repaying money borrowed from the Alabama Trust Fund.
Additionally, we increased the amount of money appropriated for textbooks and transportation for our schools. Another big legislative item that passed the Senate last week was the Tax Payer’s Bill of Rights. This bill simplifies the taxpayers’ appeal process by creating the Alabama Tax Tribunal to ensure fairness. There was a substituted version of the bill so it will go back to the House for consideration.
With not many legislative days remaining, we still have a lot to do in a short amount of time. I look forward to updating you again in my next column. As always, do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of any assistance to you or your family.
Slade Blackwell is serving his first term in the Alabama State Senate representing Jefferson and Shelby counties in District 15. For more information about Slade, visit www.sladeblackwell.com or follow him on Facebook or on Twitter @sladeblackwell. To reach him by phone, call 334-242-7851.