By Danny Garrett
The 2015 legislative session will begin March 3. With super majorities in the House and Senate, Republicans will be focused on passing legislation to continue reducing the size and cost of state government; address serious budget shortfalls facing our state; resolve a myriad of complex issues in order to avoid federal intervention in the state prison system; and control escalating Medicaid costs.
In addition, there will be a continued emphasis on improving education and increasing school choice options, particularly for disadvantaged children.
In recent press coverage, Gov. Robert Bentley has indicated he’s considering proposing bills to eliminate tax deductions and raise taxes in order to increase state revenue. In my opinion, increasing the tax burden on our citizens — individuals and corporations — would be a serious mistake. Our state government needs to live within its means, just as our hard-working families do every day. Our state leaders need to work diligently to improve economic conditions in Alabama, and to also pursue aggressive strategies to attract new industry and create jobs.
Generally, the legislature considers two types of legislation: bills that affect the entire state and bills that only impact local areas (a county or municipality). In order for a “local” bill to come before the full legislature for a vote, the local delegation that will be impacted by the bill must recommend the bill to the House and Senate. For example, any proposed legislation that would impact only the cities of Clay, Pinson or Trussville, or that would also apply to other parts of Jefferson County, would need to be approved by the majority of the local delegation. The local delegation for our district is the Jefferson County delegation.
In the House of Representatives, the Jefferson County delegation is the largest and one of the more diverse delegations in the state. In the upcoming session, the Jefferson County delegation will have 18 members: 10 Republicans and eight Democrats. Six members — five Republicans and one Democrat — are freshmen.
Last week, the Jefferson County delegation held its first meeting and elected Rep. Jim Carns, R-Mountain Brook, as chairman and Rep. Oliver Robinson, D-Birmingham, as vice chairman. They’re veteran members of the legislature who understand the legislative process and have a track record of working with others and reaching across party lines.
Because of the requirement that the local delegation support local bills, it’s important that all members of the Jefferson County delegation work together. Under the rules of the House, a local bill can’t be brought before the legislature unless it has the support of 80 percent of the local delegation. A local bill involving Jefferson County must receive 15 of 18 votes from the delegation in order to proceed.
Jefferson County recently emerged from bankruptcy and is on the road to financial stability. However, the county continues to face challenges and will need support from the legislature. Likewise, Birmingham, whose health is important to the success of Jefferson County, continues to make strides in a number of areas. The leaders of the Jefferson County Commission and the city of Birmingham recently presented an overview of their concerns and issues to members of the Jefferson County delegation. Because of financial constraints at the county level, each municipality in Jefferson County has had to dig deep to fund services the county doesn’t have the resources to provide. Delegation members are meeting with the leadership of each municipality in the county — including Clay, Pinson and Trussville — to understand their concerns.
One of my priorities will be to work with my fellow members of the Jefferson County delegation for the betterment of our district and the entire county. I’m optimistic that Carns and Robinson will provide the leadership necessary to rally the Jefferson County delegation and move forward. Cooperation among the Jefferson County delegation members is critical. We also must partner with the county commission, mayors and city councils in the county.
Our state and county faces many difficulties and challenges. I look forward to communicating, cooperating and building relationships with the other members of the Jefferson County delegation. We will need their support to pass bills that benefit District 44. I am ready to roll up my sleeves and get to work.
Danny Garrett represents District 44 in the Alabama House of Representatives, which includes Trussville, Clay and portions of Pinson. He can be reached by phone at 205-410-4637 or by email at email@example.com. You may also follow his Facebook page, “Representative Danny Garrett.”