A compact for Alabama's future
Rep. Ron Grantland, Guest columnist
The regular session of the Alabama Legislature began Feb. 1. During most sessions, more than 1,000 bills will be introduced, but most will not pass. Our system of government was purposefully designed to make enacting legislation difficult so that every issue is thoughtfully considered and debated.
I never truly appreciated the wisdom of our founding fathers on this aspect of our federal and state constitutional governments until actively being a part of the process. Our prized democracy requires focus, planning and determination to successfully pass legislation and enact new laws.
I am pleased to report during the interim between the last regular session and this upcoming one, I have participated in the planning of a 10-bill package designed to rebuild public trust and protect Alabama families. Presented by the House Democratic Caucus, the package is referred to as a "Compact for Alabama's Future."
As Alabamians and elected officials, it is our responsibility to propose and pass legislation that will empower the citizens of this state. This legislative agenda focuses on preserving traditional family values, fostering economic growth for better jobs, and improving public trust in representative government.
Topping the Compact for Alabama's Future is the Sanctity of Marriage Amendment that will constitutionally protect Alabama's already established law prohibiting recognition of marriage between two people of the same gender.
For families of military personnel, the agenda includes a proposal to establish $250,000 of life insurance coverage for National Guard soldiers deployed oversees.
An element of the Compact is a two-fold economic growth initiative. The Alabama Economic and Jobs Development Act will create a commission to modernize the state's efforts to recruit new industries and promote commercial expansion while retaining existing businesses.
The Civil Rights Language Revision Amendment will remove the blatantly discriminatory language inserted in the state constitution in 1956. The racially motivated wording portrays a negative image of Alabama, possibly handing competing states the means to thwart our state's industrial recruiting efforts.
We must make Alabama's business environment more attractive and progressive to improve our ability to bring jobs to our state. It is important that Alabama move forward.
The Democratic package features legislation designed to increase taxpayer confidence in the political process.
The Campaign Funding Accountability Act bans transfers of campaign funds between political action committees. This legislation is a critical step towards making campaign financing more transparent and measurable. Those groups and individuals, who hide their contributions and the political influence it buys, must be accountable if we want to have open, honest elections in Alabama.
To further increase confidence in the political process, the Compact includes a measure expanding the automatic recount provision for constitutional amendment elections to require recounts in the event an amendment passes with less than a one-half of one percent margin.
To broaden local lawmaking jurisdiction, the Compact contains the Local Government Powers Amendment to empower citizens and communities to govern themselves more closely to home.
The Compact also addresses concerns about state government spending of their tax money. With the complexity of state budgeting, it is a challenge to convince the public we are good stewards of their tax dollars. I have supported several accountability measures that have been approved by the House of Representatives in two previous sessions and need to be enacted this year.
The first, the Budget Accountability Act, prohibits public funds from being passed through one entity to another at the direction of a member of the Legislature.
The second, the No-Bid Contract Accountability Act, requires that all no-bid contracts issued by a state agency or an executive office be reported to the Secretary of State for public review. The third proposal, the School Fiscal Responsibility Act, will streamline public education funding oversight to bolster the financial integrity of our public schools
Accountability is ultimately a matter of leadership. Alabamians expect to see concrete action taken during this year. We face a tremendous challenge to accomplish the goals put forth in the Contract for America's Future, but I am eager to get to work.
If I may be of any assistance to you during the coming legislative session please call upon me. It is a privilege to serve you in the Alabama House of Representatives.